ANU News | 21 February 2013
ANU joins the MOOC revolution
The Australian National University (ANU) has become the only Australian member of edX, the online learning enterprise founded by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that aims to provide education to one billion people worldwide within 10 years.
edX has announced an expansion of its membership to include ANU, Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland, McGill University and the University of Toronto in Canada, and Rice University in the United States.
ANU Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Young AO says that edX was the right fit for ANU, an institution that prides itself at being at the forefront of new knowledge. Young has previously expressed concern about the rush to embrace MOOCs.
Nobody really fully understands yet just what the impact of massive open online courses (MOOCs) on higher education might be, but just as in other disruptive technologies the changes could be quite fundamental . I don’t think anyone around the world has a full idea of what this looks like in 10 years, so I think it is very exciting to be part of edX, to ensure that ANU programs, the great staff we have and the innovative education we offer is seen by thousands of people around the world.
Young says he believes platforms such as edX would be one element of an online revolution.
I don’t think MOOCs are going to supplant what we normally see as full delivery of degrees within our universities, but I think you are gradually going to see more and more students able to access parts of their education through vehicles like edX.
A key advocate for ANU to join edX was Nobel Laureate and Professor of Astrophysics at the ANU Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics (RSAA) Brian Schmidt, who will teach one of the first ANUx courses.
Schmidt said the platform would enable him and his colleagues to reach students who couldn’t otherwise study at ANU.
edX brings together the best universities in a non-profit model, which I think is entirely appropriate for ANU, Australia’s national university. It will help us potentially teach students who can’t come to ANU for a range of reasons, but more interestingly, help us reach high school students and help us make up for some of the deficiencies in secondary education around the country due to shortages of highly qualified teachers.
He said the prospects of edX in being able to teach not just to wider audience, but even to enhance ANU’s audience is an exciting one.
For me, it is a way to better communicate with students – realising that students are different to what they used to be. I watch my own kids going through things on the internet, playing with ideas, understanding them and repeating it until they get it. And while lecturing is important, this is a different way of getting information to them.
The first two ANUx courses will be Astrophysics taught by Professor Schmidt and his RSAA colleague Dr Paul Francis, and Engaging India, taught by Dr McComas Taylor and Dr Peter Friedlander from the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific. Both courses are expected to be beta tested in 2013, and fully operational in 2014.
Meanwhile, Coursera, the MOOC platform which includes the University of Melbourne, has announced that 29 new universities are joining its platform.