On Wednesday, Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology announced that they would each spend $30 million as partners in a new project called "edX." Their $60 million investment will go toward setting up online courses in the spirit of MIT's decade-old OpenCourseWare offerings.
That $60 million could translate into millions of students internationally if edX succeeds, and Harvard would be getting a great deal of value out of the commitment if edX reaches the same audience size that its Cambridge neighbors have connected with. MIT expected to spend as much as $100 million when it first committed to putting its classes online, according to a 2001 article in The New York Times.
MIT offered 200 online courses by the end of their program's first year. OpenCourseWare has since expanded tenfold to encompass 2,000 courses and serve 100 million students, according to a Huffington Post report. That curriculum comes with an annual price tag of $3.5 million, as cited on the MIT OpenCourseWare donation page.
Certificates (but not degrees) will be given to students who enroll in the first edX classes this fall and complete requirements. MIT offered something similar as a part of its MITx program, which launched earlier this year. The school told Reuters that 120,000 people registered for their Introduction to Circuits and Electronics class. By midterm, however, only 2,000 students remained enrolled.
Percentages aside, that's still a respectable crowd.