Google is teaming up with EdX, an open-source online education nonprofit started by Harvard and MIT, to create a new site that EdX’s president compared to a “YouTube for MOOCs.”
The site is called mooc.org—MOOC being the unfortunate acronym for “massive open online courses.” It will use the same EdX platform through which professors at Harvard, MIT, and other EdX-partner universities now offer their online courses. But it will be open to everyone, including businesses, governments, and private individuals as well as professors at non-EdX colleges.
Meanwhile, Google will also become a partner in developing the Open EdX platform itself—that is, the open-source technology that allows professors to conduct their courses online. Earlier this year Stanford also announced it would partner with EdX to develop the platform, a significant move coming from the university that had birthed perhaps the two best-known for-profit MOOC startups, Coursera and Udacity.
The appeal of EdX is that, as a nonprofit, it is presumably under less pressure than businesses like Coursera and Udacity to turn its online courses into major profit-makers. Hence its commitment to keeping its software open-source, so that others can use and build on it. That dovetails with Google’s own approach. Last year the search behemoth launched Course Builder, its own open-source platform for creating online courses. In a blog post announcing the company’s partnership with EdX, director of research Dan Clancy said that Google will take what it has learned from Course Builder and apply it to Open EdX and Mooc.org. It seems likely that Course Builder will in fact eventually be rolled into Mooc.org, though Google said it will continue to maintain the site for the time being.
Google, one of the most profitable companies in the world, might seem an unlikely partner for an education nonprofit. But so far Google’s forays into online education have appeared to be driven more by a spirit of philanthropy than by an eye for revenue. Read more.