Take Free Online Classes at the World's Top Universities

by Salary.com Staff - Original publish date: February 26, 2013

Less than a year after the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University first united to launch a free online education initiative known as edX, the program has gone global.

EdX announced last week that it has added six new schools to the consortium, included renowned universities in Australia, Europe, and Canada. These additions bring the program up to 12 schools offering dozens of courses.

"We’ve always had a very international student body, but this brings in a diverse set of schools to serve our diverse set of students," said edX spokesman Dan O'Connell.

Joining the consortium are the Australian National University, Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland, McGill University and the University of Toronto in Canada, and Rice University in Texas. Courses from these schools will become available in late 2013 and early 2014.

Harvard, MIT, and the University of California Berkeley are currently offering courses through the program. Courses from Wellesley College, Georgetown University, and the University of Texas system will become available in fall 2013.

"We always look for the best courses from the best professors and the best institutions in the world," O'Connell said. "It’s about the quality and their commitment to innovating, both online and on campus."

EdX offers free online courses to anyone who wants to sign up. There are no admissions requirements and no application process.

The courses cover the same material taught in equivalent classes at the participating schools. A student taking Introduction to Computer Science on edX is learning the same concepts and doing the same work as a Harvard student in the same class on-campus.

Among the approximately 20 courses currently offered are Introduction to Biology and Challenges of Global Poverty from MITx, Quantum Mechanics and Artificial Intelligence from BerkeleyX, and Justice and The Ancient Greek Hero from HarvardX. Future courses will include offerings in philosophy, music, astrophysics, public policy, and solar energy.

So far, 700,000 students have registered on the site, including learners from across the globe.

Students who complete courses are awarded certificates of mastery in the subject. Increasingly, traditional schools and even employers are recognizing these qualifications, O'Connell said. One teacher in Massachusetts, for example, was promoted to a higher employee classification after completing an edX course, he said.

In addition, O'Connell said, EdX has also just launched proctored exams: in-person tests, at which the identity of the student is confirmed, adding a level of credibility to the results.