SAN FRANCISCO — Stanford University announced Wednesday that it is joining an initiative co-founded by Harvard and MIT to develop a computer system that allows colleges to offer free online courses, a collaboration that school officials said would benefit both educators and students around the globe.
Stanford already has its own fledgling platform for delivering massive open online courses, or MOOCS. The university has decided, however, to suspend work on it in favor of the system created by the two East Coast universities as a separate nonprofit enterprise, called edX, said John Mitchell, vice provost for online learning and a computer science professor at Stanford.
Stanford still plans to offer some of its courses through Coursera, a commercial Internet course provider founded by two Stanford professors. But with the demand for online learning increasing rapidly, it makes sense for academic institutions to team up instead of compete, Mitchell said.
"Together, I think we will have a chance to produce a much better platform than each of us would be able to do individually," he said, adding that the software that emerges from the alliance has the potential to become the "Linux of online learning."
As part of the collaboration, elements of Stanford's Class2Go system will be incorporated into edX before the program's source code is made available for the asking June 1, edX President Anant Agarwal said. Since the first class went up on edX last year, an MIT electrical engineering class taught by Agarwal, the founders had always planned to share it so outside programmers and researchers could adapt and refine it, he said.
"I really believe this will enable true, planet-scale application of online education," Agarwal said.
While some future Stanford courses will be produced using edX, Stanford plants to retain its own online course portal instead of using the edX website to register students, which colleges such as the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Texas at Austin now do.