With the aim of increasing its popularity and improve its services to more students, online education provider edX is looking to partner with several educational institutions in the UAE and the Middle East to host Arabic-language courses within the next six months, according to its chief executive.
The courses of the non-profit website, founded by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in May of last year, are freely available online. Anant Agarwal, the chief executive of edX says that the translation to other languages will help reach many students.
“There are a lot of students taking courses on our platform already in this region, so there’s a lot of interest in translating our platform and being able to offer courses in Arabic,” he said.
He said an announcement was likely within the next six months, but he declined to say which institutions were likely to participate.
EdX is a United States-based online education platform that offers 85 online courses from 29 universities on an open source platform that can be hosted by other organizations. EdX has about 1.5 million students, and learners from nearly every country have enrolled in edX’s courses, according to Agarwal. He added that edX planned to offer 1,000 courses over the next three years.
According to John Everington of Abu Dhabi Media’s The National, edX said the French ministry of higher education would use its platform to launch a national massive open online course (MOOC) initiative and blended learning portal for French-speaking students. A week later, the foundation said a consortium of Chinese universities had selected its platform to power the country’s largest online learning portal XuetangX. According to Mr. Anant, the adoption of technology by educational institutions had until recently lagged behind their counterparts in other sectors such as media.
“Textbooks were the last major innovation in the realm of education, but since then not much has happened,” he said. “If you look at media, the delivery of news is nothing like it was 40 years ago. But until recently the delivery of education was nearly identical to what it had been 40 or 100 years ago.”
By integrating online courses into their curricula, educational institutions in the Middle East have much to gain.
“Whether it’s at university level or secondary level, it will really be transformative. Those that are able to adopt it quickly can really get a leg up on those that don’t move fast enough,” he said.
Additionally, Agarwal observed that far from being a threat to traditional universities, online course material could be integrated within existing programs to improve results.
“It’s not going to displace campus any time soon, there’s a magic on campus. But we’re working with the campuses to augment their learning offering, to make it even better,” he said.