The University of Texas System joins Harvard, MIT and UC Berkeley in not-for-profit online learning collaborative

edX, the online non-profit learning initiative founded by Harvard University (Harvard) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and launched in May, announced 15 October the addition of The University of Texas (UT) System to its platform. The UT System, one of the largest public university systems in the United States with nine academic universities and six health institutions, will collaborate with edX to expand the group of participating “X Universities” – universities offering their courses on the edX platform.

The UT System includes the University of Texas at Austin, ranked 25th in the 2012-2013 Times Higher Education World University Rankings, UT Southwestern Medical Center, home to one of the nation’s top 25 medical schools, and UT MD Anderson Cancer Center, the nation’s No. 1-ranked cancer center. The system’s institutions serve 212,000 students and employ 19,000 faculty members.

Through edX, the “X Universities” provide online interactive education wherever there is access to the internet, with a goal to enhance teaching and learning through research about how students learn, and how technologies can facilitate effective teaching both on campus and online. The University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley) joined edX in July 2012. edX plans to add other “X Universities” from around the world to the edX platform in the coming months.

In addition to serving a global community of online students, the UT System plans to redesign general education courses and traditional entry-level courses that are too often made up of several hundred students. Through its Institute for Transformational Learning, the UT System plans to give students more options by offering courses that are customized to student needs. For example, the UT System plans to offer courses that use a combination of technology and face-to-face interaction, courses that allow students to manage their own time by accelerating through sections they have already mastered or spending more time on areas they find challenging and fully online courses so students are not limited by their location.

As part of a bold and innovative plan, the UT System also plans to offer courses through edX that will allow students to earn college credits toward a degree. “Our goal through our partnership with edX is to better meet the learning needs of a wide range of students, raise graduation rates and cut the cost of higher education, all while maintaining our commitment to education of the highest quality,” said Gene Powell, chairman of the UT System Board of Regents.

(ACCESS 83, December 2012)