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Surprising Science

MIT & Harvard Begin the Education Revolution

Not fearing this age’s breakneck technological change, two of the nation’s most prestigious universities are set to offer their classes to anyone in the world with an Internet connection. 

What’s the Latest Development?

In a new venture called edX, MIT and Harvard University are set to offer interactive courses to anyone in the world with an Internet connection, regardless of age, background or financial resources. Despite the courses’ relatively challenging subject matter, access to the classes have already been met with high demand, said Anant Agarwal, who is currently teaching the pilot course of MIT’s online-education program. Agarwal’s course on circuits and electronics has attracted more than 120,000 registrants, which is more than all of MIT’s living alumni combined. 

What’s the Big Idea?

Besides its primary goal of making higher education available to the entire planet, edX courses provide an opportunity to examine fundamental questions about how we learn. The venture will gather data on “how long students spend on each lesson segment, which parts they need to repeat, and which problems they struggle with.” Michael D. Smith, dean of Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences, said: “We’re a research institution, and we’re interested in the power of technology in education. [A key goal of edX] is researching how technology can improve education, both on campus and off campus.”

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