Google MOOC site: ‘More of the same’?

A new partnership between edX and Google could mean that massive open online courses (MOOCs) are about to get a whole lot more open.

google-mooc-edx will launch in early 2014.

The internet software company and MOOC nonprofit are teaming up to develop a new website powered by edX’s open source learning platform, Open edX. The website is called, and will officially go live early next year. will allow anyone – whether a university, business, or individual – to produce an online or blended course.

“We envision that the site will become an ideal way to develop and refine novel online learning experiences,” said Anant Agarwal, president of edX. “Faculty, for example, new to online learning could get their feet wet, and learners who may not want to take a full course could also just get a taste. Moreover, we will be able to learn how to improve our platform by having more individuals build and use content.”

David E. Goldberg, a former professor of entrepreneurial engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and co-founder of the education non-profit Big Beacon, said he hopes the platform functions like another Google-owned property: the similarly open-sourced Android operating system.

He said that openness is something faculty and instructors still need to embrace — that MOOC platforms are getting closer to figuring out all of the technical problems of getting a real education onto a computer screen, but that they haven’t really begun to address how to change the hearts of many educators.

“Just the tech side of this isn’t where the upside is,” Goldberg said. “Addressing what’s on the screen, that’s just some more of the same. But the possibilities of reaching screens and hearts? Now you’re talking.”

The Google-backed initiative is building upon edX’s decision earlier this year to release its software with an open source license. The goal then was to encourage third-party developers to come up with new tools for the platform and MOOCs in general, James Tauber, the platform’s open source community manager, said in June.

See Page 2 for details on how’s role has not yet been defined.

That’s partly the goal of the new partnership with Google, as well, but the bigger takeaway of the deal could be that virtually anyone can now create a course through a major MOOC platform.

While students from all over the world have been able to participate in MOOCs, the courses have been mostly limited to instructors and content from elite universities like Stanford and Princeton.

“But this will offer a truly open option,” said Cali Morrison, manager of communications at WICHE Cooperative for Education Technologies. “Things have already been open from the student perspective, but this gives more openness on the other side as to who can provide content.”

Of course, with that new openness comes a new problem. How do you maintain quality courses on a platform where everyone is allowed to create and teach one? Morrison said she thinks quality assurance on could function in a way similar to how users can rate buyers and sellers on eBay.

“So if the providers, whether that’s a professor at a big name institution or high school teacher in rural Montana, provide good information, the crowd will then support them,” Morrison said.

Agarwal, meanwhile, has compared to a much different website: Google’s video sharing site YouTube.

Follow Jake New on Twitter at @eCN_Jake.

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