April 2, 2013; Source: Washington Post

Stanford University has thrown its institutional hat into the ring with Harvard and MIT to partner on edX, a nonprofit massive open online course (MOOC) provider. Former Stanford faculty members are also responsible for the for-profit Coursera, the largest MOOC platform, and Udacity, one of the first platforms created. Although Stanford offers classes on Coursera, and does not plan offer classes on edX, the institution is offering up its own open-source platform Class2go through this new partnership. The idea is to incorporate innovations from the Stanford platform into edX and make the entire software code open-source, allowing any institution to mount a course.

What is both puzzling and remarkable about Stanford’s move is that it appears to be supporting two views of MOOCs simultaneously. On one hand, it has a contract with Coursera, which has a business model based upon licensing and careful copyright protections. On the other hand, by aiding the nonprofit and open-source MOOC model, Stanford appears to support the vision of democratizing higher education. Can both visions exist together? –Michelle Shumate