Online education consortium edX is teaming up with Google to bring MOOCs to the masses. Bigger masses, that is. Google is committing to helping the online education non-profit, which was originally founded by Harvard University and MIT, to create a portal website that both partners hope will become a YouTube for MOOCs. The site will be hosted at an easy-to-remember web address – mooc.org.
Will Oremus of Slate Magazine reports that the website will rely on the same web platform already being used by other edX schools. However, unlike other edX courses that are chiefly limited to students from offering and partner universities, anyone with an internet connection will be able to take advantage of the courses offered on the new website.
Google's participation will not be limited to that of a web programmer. It will also take part in designing the future iterations of the edX course platform.
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.
This isn't the first time Google has dipped its toe in the education space. Google is a member of the Open Education Alliance, a just-announced group that hopes to transform STEM education. The company has also distributed its biggest buzz-generation product – Google Glass – to teachers all over the country in hopes that it will help them bring technology into their classrooms in new, positive ways.
But by far, the company's biggest MOOC-related effort so far has been the launch of its Course Builder tool that allows anyone to design their own massive online open courses.
But its partnership with EdX could have a wider impact on the suddenly quite-crowded MOOC space. By lending its considerable resources to that project, Google immediately raises the profile of the leading open-source alternative to Udacity and Coursera. At a time when universities' rush to sign up with Coursera and other for-profit online-learning platforms is sparking something of a backlash, EdX's approach could find more support among some professors and administrators.