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Google Hops on MOOC Bandwagon


Google has just become the latest tech giant to jump in to the MOOC world, announcing yesterday that it will be partnering with Harvard and MIT’s edX to develop the company’s online MOOC platform. The project aims to create a “Youtube for MOOCs”, allowing any interested party, from schools individuals, to easily sign up and begin publishing courses for free online. In a discussion with Inside Higher Ed, edX’s president hinted at the company’s vision for the project:

Speaking to Inside Higher Ed, Anant Agarwal, president of edX and professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said the new platform and website could be described as a method to crowdsource education.

“Until now, we had opened one end of the spigot, so to speak,” Agarwal said, referring to the online courses created in cooperation with edX’s partner institutions. “All of us are learners and all of us are teachers. I think this is a way to enable anybody to experiment with courses.”

Google’s involvement may well be limited to the technical side, but the entry of a company of Google’s size and expertise is still a major shakeup. Unlike Coursera and Udacity, edX is completely nonprofit and open source, and will remain so even in its partnership with Google. It will be interesting to see how the existence of a free service backed by Google will affect the business model and competitiveness of services like Coursera and Udacity, neither of which has yet developed a clear path to profitablity. We’ll be watching closely.

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  • mswart99

    My guess is that Google sees MOOCs as a recruiting tool — a way to scour the entire world for talent. After all, the students who seem to thrive in the present MOOC environment are technically savvy, highly motivated and capable of learning independently. Sounds like exactly the kinds of people I’d want to work for me…

    Seems to me that Google gets first crack at identifying top talent, training them through the coursework, and then recruiting them. Pretty savvy.

    I bet we’re no more than 2 years away from Google declaring that students that score well in a prescribed set of MOOC courses will be eligible for hire as if they had graduated from a 4-year university with a BS in Computer Science.

  • ljgude

    I like this post because our universities have become more and more like for profit corporations. They used to be keepers of the intellectual ‘commons’. At the same time the intellectual commons has broken out spontaneously in many ways on the Web. A Finnish graduate student and his mates can do for free what Microsoft charges billions for – and in some cases do it even better. But so is Via Meadia and other blogs. Why would a traditional academic give away his best thoughts to the widest possible audience instead of selling those same thoughts to rich folks so their loutish offspring (interns excepted, of course) might become employable? Because he apparently realizes that our universities have become ugly Blue dinosaurs and will have to reinvent themselves in any case.

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