In a first for a New Zealand university, Victoria University of Wellington is partnering with some of the world’s top academic institutions in a respected online platform that provides high quality education around the globe.
Founded in 2012 by prestigious United States universities Harvard and MIT, edX is a non-profit, open source technology platform that is run by universities, for universities.
The idea behind edX is to increase access to high quality education for anyone anywhere in the world, to enhance teaching and learning for partner universities—on-campus and online—and to advance teaching and learning through research.
Currently, edX is catering for more than 7 million learners from around the world, with 23 million course enrolments. Alongside Victoria, Harvard and MIT, there are 90 other institutions in the partnership. These include the University of California, Berkeley; Sorbonne Universités; the Australian National University; and the University of British Columbia.
As part of its partnership with edX, Victoria will deliver eight free MOOCs (massive open online courses) over the next three years, as well as a number of SPOCs (small private online courses), a micro-Master’s course and new forms of blended learning.
Victoria University Provost Professor Wendy Larner, says the contract brings many exciting opportunities to the university.
“It will be a chance for us to collaborate with other edX universities—which are some of the best in the world—to deliver courses. It will increase our reputation internationally in teaching and learning, and will also help is to expand our digital capability across the board—Victoria’s focus will be on playing a lead role in imagining and enabling the possibilities in a digital age.”
Professor Larner says the partnership with edX is helping set Victoria up for the future. “It fits with the New Zealand government’s enthusiasm for online learning, and with the Productivity Commission of New Zealand’s focus on ‘new models’ for universities.”
She says the agreement means Victoria will be able to dramatically increase the scale and reach of its audience. “A number of courses we offer are globally distinctive and relevant to an international audience—by transferring some of our existing courses to edX, we will be able to capture people across the world who may not have previously had access to these topics.”
The first MOOC Victoria will be launching on the edX platform is Antarctica Online, led by Dr Rebecca Priestley and Dr Cliff Atkins from the Faculty of Science. In 2014, the pair spent a fortnight in Antarctica filming lectures and gathering material. In August this year they travelled to an Antarctic conference in Kuala Lumpur where they filmed new lecture material to illustrate the diverse range of researchers who study the continent.
Dr Priestley says as an academic, the contract with edX is very exciting. “Cliff and I have had a fabulous opportunity—through the support of Antarctica New Zealand—to film lectures in Antarctica. Although an earlier version of the course is already on offer at Victoria, we are delighted to be able to share Antarctica Online with the world through the edX partnership.”