Back to Normal, or Something Like It


Now that edX has been launched, there is a chance that life can get back to something like normal (what is that at Harvard?). It was odd spending a significant portion of my time on a project that I couldn’t, until yesterday, talk about. It was exciting, it was strange, but it also made me appear more flakey and irresponsible than I would like. Also more tired.

It will come as no surprise to learn that the partnership with MIT was not the only choice that had been offered to Harvard. The usual suspects had all come by. It’s nice to have the Harvard brand, in that educational ventures are all anxious to have us join in.

I was also heartened (and impressed) by the considerations that made Harvard decide to go the edX route. One of the core reasons that we are taking the direction that we are taking is that we can approach on-line education (and how it impacts the on-campus experience) as a research project. The folks who are guiding the educational ship have the Socratic wisdom to know that we don’t know how to approach the use of technology to teach. The folks at MIT who are doing this have the same wisdom. So this isn’t a venture-funded concern where we are shipping a product. Instead, edX is a not-for-profit run by two universities with the stated goal of finding out, through real research, how best to use on-line technologies to enhance our core missions of learning and research.

This is not a simple research endeavor. I’ve been known to characterize this as something on the order of the Manhattan project or the Apollo program. It is going to take time. It is going to take money (fortunately, we are already being approached by foundations and other donors who are excited about this). It will take cooperation and the suppression of some standard primate behaviors. Most importantly, we don’t know what the end result will be. But we do know that it will be transformational in the areas of teaching and research. Which are the areas that a university like Harvard should be transforming.

I think the whole thing is pretty exciting…

My Life as a Technology Canary
Residential Education

1 Comment »

  1. Douglas Hall

    May 4, 2012 @ 5:23 pm


    Really exciting! How do we contribute to the technology platform?

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