Online learning platform edX, launched in 2012 by MIT and Harvard University, is set to be acquired by 2U, a publicly-traded higher education technology company, for $800 million. The proceedings will go to a non profit organisation (led by Harvard and MIT) that will oversee and improve the Open edX platform, as well as look for new ways to improve the effectiveness, engagement, and personalisation of online learning.
Once the deal comes through, 2U will be able to adopt edX as a subsidiary and take over the current portfolio of edX course offerings, user-based and partner arrangements. However, as per the deal, the open edX open-source software platform would not be transferred to 2U.
Open edX is a platform on which edX and more than 2,000 learning sites across the world are based.
Harvard and MIT founded edX is a major open online education provider in the United States. It offers online university-level courses in a variety of fields to a global student base, with some courses available for free. Over its nine years journey, with over 3,000 courses and over 1.4 million certifications granted to students, edX has played an instrumental role in the development of a thriving market for college-level content. Now, edX will be turned into a public benefit company.
Meanwhile, the capital from the deal will be utilised to provide next-gen online education. The major focus will be on eliminating persistent disparities in online learning by leveraging artificial intelligence to enable personalised learning that responds and adapts to the individual learner’s style and needs. A board appointed by MIT and Harvard will oversee the venture. Moreover, the future projects will incorporate ideas from current edX partners as well as MIT and Harvard faculty.
The rise in demand for online learning in recent years and the sudden upsurge amid pandemic have sparked investors’ interest. With investments pouring in from all quarters, the education platforms have gone on overdrive to gain a competitive edge. And edX, as a nonprofit organisation, could no longer keep up, and was forced to look for alternative ways to sustain edX’s mission into the future, clarified Reif.
MIT’s Office of Digital Learning will build and operate MITx Online based on Open edX, which MIT is creating for MITx massive open online courses (MOOCs). MIT faculty will have many alternatives for their MITx classes, including continuing to offer them on edX, moving them to a new platform called MITx Online, exploring possibilities like OpenCourseWare or the Open Learning Library, or removing them entirely.
The partner edX universities are still free to provide their courses under the same terms and conditions. Additionally, there are no constraints on these institutions and their ability to offer their courses through other platforms or to leave edX. Under the agreement, 2U has agreed to protect the data of over 39 million learners to date and data-usage standards to further protect new edX users.
The deal is expected to close this fall, subject to usual closing conditions and regulatory and governmental clearances, including the approval of the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office.