The MOOCs mission: Anant Agarwal

Divya Choudary

anant-agarwal We’ve been witness to a number of changes in technology and in education in the past few years. With Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), as offered by edX – an online learning platform founded by Harvard and MIT, revolutionizing the process of learning, it brings into question the future of education, the role of technology, students and teachers in the classroom, and the very idea of the classroom itself. Teacher Plus talks to Anant Agarwal, CEO of edX, to get some answers and a better idea of the developments in the field of education.

How do you see education evolving in the future? And what is your vision for edX?
I am often asked where I see the greatest opportunities for institutions to improve and evolve to benefit future generations of students. And while I do not have the answers, I know that today’s students want a broad education, taking courses in languages, engineering, history, literature, math and science. They also want to fold in industry experience and international travel.

As a result, many educators are now asking probing questions about traditional degree pathways. Should we require university students to obtain a degree in a specialized field? Should we expect students to know at the age of 18 what they want to do for the rest of their lives? Should universities limit their degree programs to four-year spans? Should the concept of a degree as the defining credential itself be revisited?

Shifting from the traditional approach may significantly affect the affordability, efficiency and quality of a college education. It might even change the very manner in which universities are structured. One key to this shift might be the concept of unbundling many of the components that make up the traditional approach to higher education: time, function, and content.

When edX first launched two years ago, we had no idea what to expect. And even today – with dozens of global institutions and millions of learners participating in MOOCs – we, as an industry, have so much more to learn as we continue to develop online education. One thing that both supporters and critics of online education agree on is that the MOOC movement has ignited a spirited conversation about the future of higher education.

As colleges and universities see the impact of MOOCs on learning, we’ll see more blended classrooms incorporated into the curriculum. We’ll see student satisfaction levels rise, along with professors who will be freed up to spend more time on one-on-one and group interaction with students and on research. We’ll also see the educational system become more efficient and deliver better outcomes for the investment.

No one could have predicted the explosion of interest in MOOCs that has occurred. Nor can we truly predict where MOOC technology and research will lead us. But, we can examine these innovations and collaborate on how best to use them to transform and re-imagine higher education. Success will lie in experimenting with these new concepts and continuously innovating.

At edX, we believe in the highest quality education, both online and in the classroom.

It was created for students and institutions that seek to transform themselves through cutting-edge technologies, innovative pedagogy, and rigorous courses. Through our institutional partners and members, we present the best of higher education online, offering opportunity to anyone who wants to achieve, thrive, and grow.

Our aim is to become a leading resource for learners and learning worldwide by staying focused on our goals and principles set forth when forming edX.org. Our goals, however, go beyond offering courses and content, and as innovators and experimenters, we want to share what we discover. By conducting and publishing significant research on how students learn, we will empower and inspire educators around the world and promote success in learning.

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