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Online Learning Platform, edX, Goes International With The Addition Of Six New Schools

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When it comes to online education and massive open online courses (a.k.a. “MOOCs”), Udacity and Coursera have stolen most of the attention. But they aren’t the only two choices for voracious distance learners out there; in fact, the number of options has grown considerably.

Last May, Harvard and MIT teamed up to launch edX — their own, high-profile response to Coursera, Udacity and the MOOC-y wave sweeping higher education. Backed by $60 million, the non-profit partnership made courses from both schools available to the public for free via a learning experience designed specifically for interactive study on the Web.

In addition to making the MIT and Harvard learning experience available at scale to learners around the world, edX has been built on top of the open-source MITx platform in effort to allow other institutions to take advantage of its technology and make their courses available through edX. In the big picture, the organization wants universities to be able to use its platform to research the efficacy of online learning and better understand how technology can transform education both in and out of the classroom.

To date, edX has attracted over 675,000 students and edX President Anant Agarwal says that the platform is on track to educate one million students in its first year — the first step in its ambitious goal of educating one billion over the next decade. While MOOCs have traditionally focused on providing students with a variety of online courses for free online, he says that edX’s vision is “much larger.” Through MITx, the goal is to build an open source educational platform and network of the world’s top universities to help improve education both online and on-campus.

In doing so, edX announced today that it is officially expanding its reach from North America to Europe and Asia by doubling the number of its member institutions and will be adding a handful of new courses to its roster. The platform’s international expansion adds six new institutions to the organization’s so-called “X University Consortium,” including Australian National University, Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne in Switzerland, McGill University and the University of Toronto in Canada and Rice University in the U.S.

The expansion will enable edX “to better achieve its mission of providing a world-class education for everyone, everywhere,” Agarwal said, and is a natural evolution as the organization looks to beef up support for its increasingly international student body. The institutions will each offer courses in their respective areas of expertise, as Delft University (the oldest technical institution in the Netherlands) will feature “Introduction to Aerospace Engineering” and “Water Treatment Engineering” and the University of Toronto will offer a number of engineering, biology and businesses courses, for example.

“Each of these schools was carefully selected for the distinct expertise and regional influence they bring to the platform,” the edX President said, and their courses will “provide the same rigor” students would find in their classrooms. The difference, of course, is that the classes are designed to leverage the benefits of online learning environments by offering game-ified experiences, cutting-edge laboratories and instant feedback.

The six new members of edX join Harvard and MIT, as well as a handful of other institutions that have joined its ranks since last summer, including University of California at Berkeley, the University of Texas, Wellesley College and Georgetown University.

The new members will begin offering courses on edX beginning in the fall of 2013.

For more info, find edX at home here.