EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was initially published on Anant Agarwal’s LinkedIn.
At edX, unlocking human potential by making higher education more affordable and accessible is our end goal. That’s why we’re committed to working with partners across higher education, enterprise, and government to provide educational opportunities aligned not only to industry demand, but also learners’ needs. In this new age of “learner-centricity,” it’s more important than ever to meet learners where they are and offer more flexible, convenient, on-demand, unbundled, and personalized services. We need to give them choices, too, in the breadth and depth of the education they have access to in order to upskill, reskill, and remain relevant in their careers. Today, consumers increasingly have the freedom to select what, when, where, and how they want to learn—and we want to be that flexible resource for them with learning at the right size and right time at any stage of their lives.
Historically, educational experiences were rarely tailored to learners, but in the last decade that has undeniably changed—and for the better. Learner-centric education has taken hold, and COVID has only accelerated the momentum of such important change. Through this transformation, I’ve seen four trends take shape across higher education that I’ve shared before here and here: 1) the broad adoption of online lifelong learning, 2) the growth of modular, stackable credentials, 3) the shift to blended learning on campus, and 4) mapping learning to career relevancy. edX, our partners, and other organizations that use Open edX—the open source platform that powers edX.org—have all been adopting these trends in order to deliver great outcomes for learners across the globe.
As a member of the Open edX Technical Oversight Committee, I’m proud to continue to help guide the technical direction and vision of our open source platform and community to support these outcomes. In my opening keynote for this year’s Open edX Conference, I highlighted the following five ways that organizations have successfully leveraged Open edX to embrace a more learner-centric approach.
Adoption of Online, Lifelong Learning in Practice: The All-Ukrainian School Online
Since the start of COVID, Ukraine’s Ministry of Education and Science has been using Open edX as its national learning platform. Now, as Ukraine’s conflict with Russia continues to disrupt life, learning, and livelihoods for millions of people, the Ministry’s use of Open edX is proving to be an investment in the resiliency of Ukraine’s education system.
Their Open edX instance is a resource that encourages students to continue their link with the country’s education system, resume their studies using Ukrainian e-learning resources, and contact their schools and teachers wherever possible. In major crises like the one in Ukraine, access to education is often a need that’s neglected or left behind altogether, but it’s one that’s critical to building and maintaining a nation during and after the hardships of war. So to further help Ukraine maintain learning continuity right now, we’re also offering all Ukrainian colleges and universities free access to the edX Online Campus.
Modular, Stackable Learning in Practice: LabXchange
LabXchange enables modular and stackable learning on a “micro” scale. Built on Open edX, this interactive learning platform, created by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University in collaboration with the Amgen Foundation, brings science education to students around the world. LabXchange breaks individual online courses into its component parts—videos, simulations, assessments, etc. —so that learners, instructors, and researchers can take those modules to curate their own learning playlists and share them with others.
As Dr. Robert Lue, my friend and the former faculty director and principal investigator of LabXchange, said, “You can actually pick the [assets] you want, sequence them into a learning pathway, and create a much shorter experience that’s really tailored to exactly what you need to learn.”
On-Campus Blended Learning in Practice: UP Valencia and Campus-IL
One of many edX partners leveraging massive open online courses (MOOCs) on-campus is Universitat Politècnica de València (UPV). Based in Spain, UPV has invested in online learning for many years and is now reaping the benefits for its residential students as well. In the fall of 2019, UPV piloted granting undergraduate students elective credits for the university’s MOOCs on edX.org. This has since been formalized with their adoption of Online Campus Essentials starting in 2020. To date, UPV students have taken over 500 courses and been awarded credit through this opportunity, totaling 13,284 equivalent learning hours.
Another great example of delivering online learning to on-campus students is Campus-IL, Israel’s national learning platform. In collaboration with the country’s Ministry of Education, Campus-IL developed a variety of digital courses for high school students to minimize social and pedagogical gaps during the pandemic. The team at Campus-IL soon observed a gap in teachers’ ability to monitor the progress of their students, evaluate achievement, and make relevant pedagogical decisions. As a result, the organization used the Open edX platform to build Blender, a tool that empowers teachers to make data-driven decisions in hybrid learning environments. To date, over 700 teachers have used Blender in over 1,000 classes.
Career-Relevant Curriculum in Practice: Starbucks Global Academy and Arizona State University
The Starbucks Global Academy launched in 2017 as a partnership between Starbucks and Arizona State University—a longstanding edX partner and innovator in the education space—this platform created on Open edX delivers learning opportunities as a benefit to Starbucks employees. Through the Starbucks Global Academy, employees can access four specific learning tracks focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and social responsibility topics, along with other Starbucks-specific content related to the company’s core values.
A Community of Like-Minded Partners
The Ukrainian national learning platform, LabXchange, UPV, Campus-IL, and Starbucks Global Academy are just five examples of organizations around the world using the Open edX platform to increase access to high-quality education for everyone, everywhere. Our open technology gives institutions across the spectrum of higher education, enterprise, and government the tools to create robust digital learning experiences that can meet the needs of all kinds of learners today.
Supporting this vast community of like-minded partners remains a key part of our mission at edX, and I’m excited to continue to work together to deliver even more innovative, learner-centric solutions for the future.
Hear more from Anant on the shift to learner-centricity, career-relevant education, and other topics related to the future of education and work in his new LinkedIn Live conversation series edX Live. Watch his first edX Live episode now with special guests Arthur Levine, a distinguished higher education scholar at NYU, and Ruhul Varma, chief talent officer for Accenture Technology. Be on the lookout to join future edX Live episodes on the edX LinkedIn page.
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