The Scope of edX

Quantifying an open online learning platform.

July 21, 2016

My college is a member of the edX Consortium, so I pay attention to who is on the edX platform.

Thankfully for all of us, MOOCs no longer suck up the higher ed change oxygen. Those of us participating in the open online education movement never bought into the hype.  We never thought that MOOCs would disrupt higher ed.  We create open online courses because offering educational opportunities to the world’s learners is both aligned with our missions, and because we think that participating in this movement is a good way to learn about learning.

Even though we may hear less about MOOCs than we once did, that does not mean that we should not pay attention to where this movement is going.

Let me share some edX numbers that blew my mind:

  • There are 8.3 million (unique) lifelong learners on the edX platform.
  • Between 2012, when edX started, and today - there have been 27 million course enrollments.
  • Over 1,000 courses have been offered.
  • There have been over 2,300 faculty and staff that have taught on edX.
  • Over 840,000 certificates have been earned by edX learners.
  • EdX has over 100 schools, institutes and organizations in the Consortium creating open online courses.

Who exactly are all these lifelong learners on the edX platform?

  • Seven-in-ten lifelong learners are 25 years old or older.
  • The media age of an edX learner is 29.
  • About 36 percent are women, and each year the proportion of women learners on the edX platform grows.  It will be interesting to see if the gender distribution for open online learning starts to match that for post-secondary education as a whole (~57%).
  • Over two-thirds have a bachelor degree or higher, with over a quarter having a masters. (And 4% having a PhD).

And where do edX lifelong learners come from?

  • There are lifelong learners in every country of the world (save North Korea).
  • A bit over a quarter (27%) of edX learners come from the U.S. The next biggest country is India (11%), the U.K. and Brazil (both 4%) and China, Canada, and Mexico (3% each).
  • Over four-in-ten edX learners live in emerging economy countries.

Does Coursera, NovoEd, FutureLearn, Canvas.net, and other open online learning platforms report similar levels and trends?

What other variables would we need to get a sense of the scale and impact of open courses?

Should we move beyond completion (no one finishes a library) to access, serendipity, community, or other measures?

Are measures of inputs - the resources spent creating open online courses - as important as measures of reach and composition?

Does the ability to reach 8.3 million global lifelong learners on a single (not-for-profit) platform make your ears perk up as much as mine?

Do you also get excited by the idea of not having to worry about finding learners, creating accounts, managing authentication, and dealing with technical issues - but rather being able to focus on teaching, learning, and learning about learning?

Can you envision a scenario where you would want your institution, and your ideas, connecting with the world’s population of lifelong learners?



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