edX’s source code could be used for much smaller courses.

Massive open online course (MOOC) provider edX has released its software with an open source license, the nonprofit announced June 5. The move would allow anyone in the “the global development community to both use and help build a next-generation learning platform,” edX said in the announcement.

While the decision aligns with edX’s goal of making education available to the masses, the announcement could result in MOOC software being used to develop MOOCs that cater to a considerably smaller audience, like a college class offered only to students at a specific university or the training course already developed by the company 10gen for its open source database MongoDB.

In other words, a MOOC without the “M.”

And that’s kind of the idea, said Rob Rubin, edX’s vice president of engineering. “We want to encourage that,” he said. “We are committed to improving accessibility and we think that’s a great application.”

These scaled down versions of MOOCs are called small private online courses, or SPOCs. The term was coined by Armando Fox, a professor in residence at the University of California at Berkeley’s Computer Science Division. Anant Agarwal, edX’s president and a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), used the term to describe some courses created at Stanford when the university began working with edX earlier this spring in preparation of the full release of the open source software.

See Page 2 for how edX was able to release the source code ahead of schedule. 


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