University of Texas System to Join EdX

October 16, 2012

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

The University of Texas system will be joining EdX today. This makes the lineup the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University, the University of California Berkeley and the nine universities of the University of Texas system (it is not clear whether the six health institutions of the UT system will eventually participate). The Texas schools plan to concentrate on general education and introductory courses in developing Massive Open Online Courses.

This is interesting for a number of reasons. First, because EdX has set up a system for third-party administered final exams. EdX not only includes not only two of the nation’s premier private institutions, but also the flagship institutions of the nation’s largest and second to largest states.

Given that the Chronicle of Higher Education story linked to above notes that the UT system is actually paying $5m to join EdX,  they must have obviously considered the decision carefully. I cannot imagine an intellectually coherent argument that any of the UT system schools could muster to deny students credit for successfully completed EdX courses, so the UT system seems to be embracing the future with both arms.

Second, how ironic is it that this announcement comes on the heels of the Supreme Court arguments over UT Austin’s affirmative action policy? Soon people from all over the globe will be taking University of Texas courses, making the scarcity of university spots underlying such policies potentially obsolete, almost certainly less severe.

Finally, the University of Texas system pioneered a system for measuring value added measures under the leadership of UT Board of Regents Chair Charles Miller using a broad test of cognitive skills. To the suprise of approximately no one who graduated from UT Austin that I know, the flagship did not lead the way in value added.

A refinement of this system may allow for a formal evaluation of MOOCs and student learning. I’m willing to bet that they improve student learning.


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