Harvard classes for Utah students? Yes, and they’ll be free

Would you like your children to take college classes from Harvard – free? Thanks to digital learning, now they can.

Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) recently announced a nonprofit partnership called edX. The purpose of this partnership is to use digital learning to provide high-quality college courses, with the exact same content as face-to-face courses at Harvard and MIT, to anyone who wants to take them, at their own pace, wherever they may be. As research institutions, they also plan to use the free online courses to study how people learn and to improve the delivery of digital learning. At some point, it is expected that there will be some cost attached to the online courses so that this digital learning program can become self-sustaining. 

This development illustrates the potential benefits that digital learning holds for creating new higher education opportunities at a lower cost for students and families. For instance, imagine the benefits to college students inUtahif they could take free or low-cost general education courses through edX. Rather than paying a high premium to a tenured research professor to teach these courses to a couple hundred students, research-specialists could focus on research and the university could pay much less money to a group of teaching assistant’s that oversee thousands of students and help them with questions and project work.

What’s more, as Khan Academy illustrates, the innovative potential of digital learning is not limited to higher education, but has great potential to improve K-12 public education as well.

So what is holding back the innovative power of digital learning? The answer to that question can be found in comments at the edX press conference from MIT President Susan Hockfield:

Today in higher education generally, you can choose to view this era as one of threatening change and unsettling volatility, or you can see it as a moment charged with the most exciting possibilities presented to educators in our lifetimes, with the possibility of better understanding how we learn and of sharing the transformative power of education far beyond the bounds of any single campus….[MIT and Harvard] come together to say, with conviction, that online education is not an enemy of residential education, but rather a profoundly liberating and inspiring ally.

Hostile views toward digital learning among some of education’s special interests, education officials, and policymakers often prevent this innovation from benefitingUtahchildren. Seeing (correctly) that digital learning puts the power in the hands of children and parents, some move to protect their “education kingdom,” as they see it.

Let’s hope that the majority of policymakers and education leaders inUtahchoose to embrace a digital learning vision like Hockfield’s, rather than one driven by power politics.

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  • jbt

    How on earth can the Sutherland Institute and the Eagle Forum make sure that the content of digital learning classes is in keeping with “Utah Values”.  It seems to me that you folks are taking quite a risk. What if a science professor talks about preserving the environment, and (shudder) mankind’s role in global warming and climate change?  Our children’s minds will be permanently crippled by this liberal point of view.  What if a health professor talks about contraception and mentions the vile “C” word?  Why they might even demonstrate how to install the vile “C” thing by using a banana, or worse an aroused cucumber. Our children will be tempted to not only try “digital sex” from these dirty digital classes, but sex with other people as well.  They may even teach a class on civil rights and how everyone in our nation should be treated as equals—even those gays who want to marry each other and raise children.  I think the Sutherland Institute has gone too far this time.  Better to go back to pushing vouchers for private schools where children can be indoctrinated with their parent’s prejudice, bigotry, and narrow vision of the world—you know where they are safe and don’t feel the fear of people and things that are different that has been instilled in them from birth.

  • jbt

    How on earth can the Sutherland Institute and the Eagle Forum make sure that the content of digital learning classes is in keeping with “Utah Values”.  It seems to me that you folks are taking quite a risk. What if a science professor talks about preserving the environment, and (shudder) mankind’s role in global warming and climate change?  Our children’s minds will be permanently crippled by this liberal point of view.  What if a health professor talks about contraception and mentions the vile “C” word?  Why they might even demonstrate how to install the vile “C” thing by using a banana, or worse an aroused cucumber. Our children will be tempted to not only try “digital sex” from these dirty digital classes, but sex with other people as well.  They may even teach a class on civil rights and how everyone in our nation should be treated as equals—even those gays who want to marry each other and raise children.  I think the Sutherland Institute has gone too far this time.  Better to go back to pushing vouchers for private schools where children can be indoctrinated with their parent’s prejudice, bigotry, and narrow vision of the world—you know where they are safe and don’t feel the fear of people and things that are different that has been instilled in them from birth.

  • Sylvia

    I am currently taking online classes and would LOVE to take more from Harvard. I really want to take advantage of this as soon as it becomes available. Please keep us posted on the details.

  • Sylvia

    I am currently taking online classes and would LOVE to take more from Harvard. I really want to take advantage of this as soon as it becomes available. Please keep us posted on the details.