Harvard and MIT have just announced a $60 million partnership that will put many of their classes online for free starting this fall. The EdX program is an expansion of MITx, which began teaching its first interactive online course in March. MIT has long offered material online through the OpenCourseWare project, but it describes EdX as a more interactive experience, with online discussion groups, collaborative course wikis, and other tools that move beyond simply reading or watching video. As with MITx, students who complete EdX courses can receive a certificate, albeit not one from Harvard or MIT.
The first MITx class apparently saw massive participation, with 120,000 people registering (we won't know how many have passed until it wraps up in June), and EdX hopes to add classes from more schools in the coming years. Online education, both free and for-profit, is experiencing a boom lately: besides EdX, would-be students can turn to Udacity, the Khan Academy, or even the "elite" online Minerva Project. EdX president Anant Agarwal acknowledges these groups, but he doesn't see the field as a zero-sum game. "Of course, all of us are looking at each other," he said earlier today. "At the end of the day, I think the more online educators there are, I think the better off the whole world is."