HarvardX and MITx are collaborative institutional efforts between Harvard University and MIT to enhance campus-based education, advance educational research, and increase access to online learning opportunities worldwide. Over the year from the fall of 2013 to the summer of 2014, HarvardX and MITx launched 17 courses on edX, a jointly founded platform for delivering online courses. This report is a joint effort by institutional units at Harvard and MIT to describe the registrant and course data provided by edX in the context of the diverse efforts and intentions of HarvardX and MITx instructor teams.
With the second full academic year of HarvardX and MITx well underway, and with more than double the number of course offerings in the pipeline, this report is an opportunity to guide course development and set baseline expectations for Year 2 results. It is also an opportunity to deepen public understanding of the considerable diversity between and within university efforts to support open online learning. Companion reports from HarvardX and MITx describe individual courses in greater depth and include, among other details, the differing learning goals that different instructors had for their students. We strongly encourage readers to review these reports as a package to understand the full story of the HarvardX and MITx initiatives in their first year.
These first 17 courses were released on the edX platform over a period of rapid development, expansion, and change. Systematic data collection protocols and integrated tools for randomized controlled experiments were initially not in place. Although research capabilities have advanced considerably since this first year, data from these first courses cannot provide definitive answers about what works in open online education. Nonetheless, there are plentiful indications that this is an unconventional data source of considerable potential, and herein descriptive results will be important to guide the design of future experiments and the interpretation of future results.
We begin the next section by elaborating on this new data context and providing a framework for interpreting the figures and findings to come. We then reflect on differences and similarities among the first HarvardX and MITx courses, before turning to statistics describing meaningful subpopulations of participants. We present registration, certification, demographic, enrollment, geographic, and activity data across all the first HarvardX and MITx courses, and then conclude with perspectives gained from the study.