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UC Berkeley joins edX

UC Berkeley joins Harvard and MIT not-for-profit online-learning collaborative; edX broadens free course offerings into public health, computer science and solid-state chemistry; opens registration

The following is adapted from a press release issued today by edX. More information on fall course registration, as well as FAQs, can be found on the edX website.

EdX, the online-learning initiative founded by Harvard University and MIT and launched in May, announced today the addition of the University of California, Berkeley to its platform. UC Berkeley, ranked No. 1 among public universities in the United States in 2012 by US News & World Report, will collaborate with edX to expand the group of participating “X Universities” — universities offering their courses on the edX platform.

Through edX, the “X Universities” will provide interactive education wherever there is access to the Internet and will enhance teaching and learning through research about how students learn, and how technologies can facilitate effective teaching both on-campus and online. EdX plans to add other “X Universities” from around the world to the edX platform in the coming months.

UC Berkeley will offer two courses on edX this fall, and the university will also serve as the inaugural chair of the to-be-formed “X University” Consortium.

Robert J. Birgeneau, the chancellor of UC Berkeley, announced: “We are committed to excellence in online education with the dual goals of distributing higher education more broadly and enriching the quality of campus-based education. We share the vision of MIT and Harvard leadership and believe that collaborating with the not-for-profit model of edX is the best way to do this. Fiat Lux.

Meanwhile, edX announced two new courses each from HarvardX and MITx to be launched on edX this fall, along with MITx’s 6.002x Circuits & Electronics. All of the courses will be hosted from edX’s website,

MIT launched its MITx online-learning initiative in December 2011, with 6.002x as its prototype course, and more than 150,000 students worldwide enrolled. EdX was announced by Harvard and MIT in May, with each university committing to contribute $30 million toward the online partnership.

“We are very excited that UC Berkeley is joining us in this effort,” said Anant Agarwal, president of edX. “EdX is about revolutionizing learning, and we have received a tremendous outpouring of excitement and interest from universities around the world. UC Berkeley is an extraordinary public institution known not only for its academic excellence but also for its innovativeness. With this collaboration, edX is now positioned to improve education more rapidly, both online and on-campus worldwide.”

“From the outset, we have imagined edX as a platform to be shared with other educational institutions,” said MIT President L. Rafael Reif. “Berkeley's decision to join the effort is great news: MIT is already seeing the benefits of its collaboration with Harvard, and we look forward to working with our remarkable colleagues at Berkeley as we explore the future of online education. Together, we are sure to learn much about how to enrich residential education even as we reach new learners far from our campuses.”

In addition to the funding commitments by Harvard and MIT, edX has already garnered outside financial support, including two individual leadership gifts. MIT alumnus Philippe Laffont, founder and chief investment officer of Coatue Management, LLC, has made a gift to support MITx in honor of MIT Professor Stephen A. Ward, Laffont’s thesis advisor at MIT. Harvard alumnus Jonathan Grayer, former chairman and CEO of Kaplan, Inc. and co-founder of Weld North LLC, has made a gift in support of HarvardX.

Foundation support has also begun to flow in. Earlier in the summer, MIT received a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Grant funds will go toward developing an introduction to computer science course on the edX platform and partnering with a postsecondary institution that targets low-income young adults to offer this introductory course in a “flipped classroom” setting, where students watch course videos at home and work together in the classroom.

“Interest from other institutions in collaborating with edX has been enormous from the outset and we are delighted that the partnership announced today by Berkeley has come together so quickly,” said Harvard President Drew Faust. “Since the beginning, our goal has been to broaden edX offerings by partnering with other universities who are equally committed to both expanding access to education and improving research about teaching and learning. Today’s announcement is an important step in that direction.”

UC Berkeley will bring significant, new, open-source technology to the edX platform. Developers from UC Berkeley are working directly with the edX team to integrate the technology.

EdX will release its learning platform as open-source software so that anyone around the world can adopt and improve this shared tool. Timing of the release has not yet been determined.

The classes to be offered on edX this fall are:
  • HarvardX — “Health in Numbers: Quantitative Methods in Clinical and Public Health Research” is a course in Biostatistics and Epidemiology focused on teaching a diversity of health care practitioners and other students from around the world how to design rigorous clinical and public health studies and analyze complex health data, thereby furthering the school’s mission of improving global health. The course is taught by Professors E. Francis Cook and Marcello Pagano. Dr. Cook is a Professor of Epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and at the Harvard Medical School and he has won citations for Excellence in Teaching from the Harvard School of Public Health on four occasions. Dr. Pagano obtained a Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University and has spent the last 35 years on the faculty at HSPH teaching biostatistics and advising students.
  • HarvardX — “Computer Science 50” (CS 50) is Harvard College’s introduction to the intellectual enterprises of computer science and the art of programming for majors and non-majors alike. An entry-level course, CS50 teaches students how to think algorithmically and solve problems efficiently. Topics include abstraction, data structures, memory management and security. Languages include C, PHP and JavaScript. The course is designed for students with or without prior programming experience. As of Fall 2011, CS50 was Harvard College's third-largest course. It is taught by Harvard Senior Lecturer David J. Malan. He received his A.B., S.M. and Ph.D. in Computer Science from Harvard in 1999, 2004 and 2007, respectively.
  • MITx — “Introduction to Computer Science and Programming” provides an understanding of computational approaches to scientific problem solving for students with little or no prior programming experience. It is based on the most popular course on MIT’s OpenCourseWare platform and provides a tour of the major features of the Python programming language and object-oriented programming, algorithmic design and analysis and computational approaches to generating and understanding data, with examples drawn largely from the sciences and social sciences. The principal instructors for the course are John Guttag, W. Eric Grimson, and Chris Terman. John Guttag is the Dugald C. Jackson Professor of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering at MIT, and currently heads the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory's Data-driven Medical Research Group. Christopher J. Terman has taught computer science courses in the EECS department for many years; his research has been in the areas of programming languages, compilers, computer-aided design tools and educational technologies. W. Eric Grimson is the Bernard Gordon Professor of Medical Engineering and Chancellor of MIT.
  • MITx — “Introduction to Solid State Chemistry” is a first-year college course where chemical principles are explained by examination of the properties of materials. The electronic structure and chemical bonding of materials is related to applications and engineering systems throughout the course. The on-campus version of the course has been taught for more than 40 years and is one of the largest classes at MIT. The instructor for the course is MIT Professor of Materials Science and Engineering Michael J. Cima. Cima is author or co-author of more than 200 peer-reviewed scientific publications and 45 patents.
  • MITx — “Circuits and Electronics” is an introductory undergraduate electrical engineering course taught by visiting MIT Associate Professor Khurram K. Afridi and developed by edX president MIT Professor Anant Agarwal, MIT Professor Gerald J. Sussman, MIT Senior Lecturer Christopher J. Terman and edX Chief Scientist Piotr Mitros.
  • BerkeleyX — "Artificial Intelligence” is a course in the basic ideas and techniques underlying the design of intelligent computer systems, with a specific emphasis on the statistical and decision-theoretic modeling paradigm. By the end of this course, students will have built autonomous agents that reason in uncertain environments and will have developed machine learning algorithms that will classify handwritten digits and photographs. The on-campus version of the course is one of the most popular computer science courses at UC Berkeley. It will be taught by UC Berkeley Assistant Professor Pieter Abbeel and Associate Professor Dan Klein, a recent recipient of the Distinguished Teaching Award, UC Berkeley's highest teaching honor.
  • BerkeleyX — “Software as a Service” teaches the fundamentals for engineering long-lived software using highly-productive agile techniques to develop Software as a Service (SaaS) using Ruby on Rails. The topics include test-driven development, behavior-driven/user-centric design, design patterns, legacy code, refactoring and deployment. It will be taught by UC Berkeley Adjunct Associate Professor Armando Fox, who has received teaching and mentoring awards from Stanford University, the Society of Women Engineers and Tau Beta Pi Honor Society, and Professor David A. Patterson, winner of the ACM Karl Karlstrom Teaching Award and the IEEE Mulligan Medal in Education.
For this introductory set of courses, certificates of mastery will be available at no charge for each of the courses to those learners motivated and able to demonstrate their knowledge of the course material.

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