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Your independent source for Harvard news since 1898

John Harvard's Journal | News Briefs

Education, Ever More Online

July-August 2017

HarvardX, the online course initiative, has begun piloting the disaggregation of contents—course videos, recorded lectures, illustrations, and exercises—so professors across the University can search them and incorporate them into their classroom teaching as of this fall. The HarvardDART (Digital Assets for Reuse in Teaching) tool thus makes it possible to repurpose material heretofore available only through full edX online courses—advancing the goal of applying discoveries from online teaching and learning, through the dozens of full courses now in existence, to campus-based instruction in any of thousands of courses for which the content is relevant. It also yields more applications from Harvard’s extensive investment in developing and posting the online courses, which can easily amount to tens of thousands of dollars or more per new offering.

In other online developments, edX—the Harvard-MIT-led consortium and technology platform through which HarvardX distributes its online courses—in April launched a “Professional Certificate” program for career-related courses created by companies and edX-affiliated universities. The programs, lasting two to six months (and thus shorter than MicroMasters, in which students begin online and then transfer to on-campus instruction), are explicitly related to career applications. Among them are “Data Science for Executives” from Columbia, “Retail and Omnichannel Management,” from Dartmouth, and “Microsoft Professional Program in Data Science,” from Microsoft. Meanwhile, Coursera, a for-profit competitor to edX, announced a plan to offer 15 to 20 online degree programs by the end of 2019, including master’s degrees in innovation and entrepreneurship, and in accounting. Both ventures illustrate how online programs are taking a more professional tilt, more oriented toward revenue (comparable to HBX and HMX, from the business and medical schools; see harvardmag.com/hmx-17 for additional details)—a mission distinctly different from HarvardX’s nondegree, liberal-arts brief and its predominantly free distribution.

Taking market logic one step further, also in April, Purdue announced its acquisition of Kaplan University—the credential-issuing operation of the Kaplan higher-eduction business, encompassing 32,000 students at 15 campus locations. Purdue has announced that it intends to create a nonprofit, online university, operating under Purdue’s name, that focuses primarily on adult learners. About 85 percent of those Kaplan students are in fully online programs; the rest are in hybrid (online and classroom) settings.

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