Boston University will join online course platform edX to create increased flexible learning options for students both on and off campus, according to a Tuesday press release.
“This is a very deliberate approach to looking at how BU can best be involved in creating and participating in the hybrid model and developing hybrid courses and courses specifically for online consumption through massive open online courses,” said BU spokesman Colin Riley.
BU joined edX along with Berklee College of Music, Cornell University, Davidson College, the University of Washington and many other universities abroad, the release stated.
“I am excited about the opportunity to help develop and use these enhanced learning tools for our residential students, and to invent new hybrid educational platforms as the next step in our ongoing, significant commitment to online learning, especially for our students in graduate professional programs,” said BU President Robert Brown in the release.
By joining the platform, BU is obligated to offer five massive online open courses, referred to as MOOCs, through edX, according to the release. The MOOCs will be available in one year, while hybrid courses that blend elements of online learning and classroom learning will be available in several years.
“Although MOOCs typically enable people around the world to take a university class for free, without credit, BU and edX have adopted blended or hybrid courses which promote the face-to-face nature of classroom interactions, both students-to-teacher and between students,” the release stated.
Additionally, edX will complement BU’s current online learning system, Blackboard Learn, without replacing it, according to the release.
“With more than 200 universities worldwide hoping for admission to edX and with several elite institutions already in, we are extraordinarily excited to be joining edX,” said University Provost Jean Morrison in the release.
EdX was founded by officials at Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the release stated. The organization now collects data from more than 900,000 students and more than 20 institutions globally.
“It gives us the opportunity to collaborate with the consortium members on using their experience to better understand online learning,” Morrison said. “We can learn from each other and develop best practices around higher education.”
EdX will also make BU professors and courses more accessible to a global audience and will create greater connections for students, the release stated. Online courses or modules through edX may supplement study abroad programs or provide an avenue for BU students to communicate with other students across the world.
BU joins edX as a major step toward establishing digital learning strategy, the release stated. In October, Brown created the Council on Educational Technology and Learning Innovation, a group consisting mostly of BU faculty, to explore online technologies. Joining edX marks BU officials’ latest efforts in this process.
Azer Bestavros, BU computer science professor and co-chairman of the CETLI, said joining edX will bring benefits to BU students looking to further their educations.
“We will be using the online platform to develop hybrid courses,” Bestavros said. “These are not going to be open to the masses. They are going to be for our own students and will use technology to bring our classes to the next level.”
Bestavros said the courses will give a variety of options to students who need them.
“The overarching reason for doing all this is to really improve the quality of courses we offer at BU,” he said. “One way that this will be ‘better’ for the students is the increased flexibility that it will allow us to exploit. For example, hybrid courses are courses where some of the content is delivered online, but there is also a component that is done face-to-face.”
Riley said joining edX was a calculated decision based on findings of the CETLI.
“A lot of credit goes to the president and provost for recognizing and creating the council to look and study these issues closely before joining an outstanding collaboration [edX],” he said.