Monday 8 June 2015, by jgc62, Kasper Rasmussen

2 inspired

A. The main facts about the activities of the company.

EdX was founded by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in May 2012. EdX is a massive open online course (MOOC) provider. As such, it is an education provider, a provider specifically offering online university courses from a number of different disciplines worldwide via the Internet. Majority of these courses are free of charge, provide the user with a completion certificate when completed and may offer course credit depending on the provider/school. As time progressed, EdX has had a growing number of participating universities around the world. These universities include, but are not limited to: the Australian National University, Peking University, Sorbonne Universités, Université catholique de Louvain, ETH Zurich and UC Berkeley. What makes these universities “participating” is due to the fact that EdX is an open source platform. This makes the EdX platform available to any university or any higher-level learning center or organization that also wants to offer online courses. Aside from being a non-profit organization, this key feature separates EdX from and gives EdX a competitive advantage over other similar platforms and services. Having an open-source platform, EdX is able to facilitate collaboration that helps in the overall evolution and improvement of the platform – bringing new and better features to its users.

EdX’s goals besides providing high quality education to people worldwide also include promoting research, improving how professors and teachers teach and "promoting success in learning." Another notable fact about EdX is that it utilizes current advances in technology to help further its goals, which indeed explains its current successes in providing education to everyone, everywhere.

B. The Ethical challenges this company is addressing.

From time to time, EdX faces a particular ethical challenge that, without doubt, goes against their principle of providing high quality education to people worldwide. This challenge involves making a number of, and at some cases all, courses unavailable for a certain geographical region due to decrees and/or decisions made by the United States government. A recent example is the recent bans on the Crimea region of Ukraine. This ban on US exports to that region hinders EdX from providing its offerings there. However, EdX is doing all it can to appeal to the US Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) in order to resume offering courses to learners from that region. Moreover, similar cases are also existent with regards to learners from Iran, Sudan and Cuba for some courses despite EdX currently possessing the licenses to offer its courses in these regions.

An additional ethical challenge EdX is working hard to combat concerns the inaccessibility of higher education for millions of people. The high costs of many traditional institutions, in terms of money and time, works to significantly limit the uptake of university education throughout the world, subsequently constraining the social and economic development of these regions. With an overarching goal of providing education to everyone, everywhere, EdX plays an instrumental role in addressing the consistently declining enrollment rates faced by higher education institutions, thereby doing its part to strengthen global social welfare.

C. What makes you believe this company is really ethical and why you trust it?

What makes us believe that EdX is a really ethical organization is mainly the fact that this provider was founded by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, which have without doubt the highest prestige among all universities in the world. Besides these universities, EdX provides courses from Berkley, UT and others. A strong reputation not only indicates current success but also drives future fortune. This fact without any disbelief makes EdX a provider with really ethical and trustworthy approach.

Transparency and integrity
Increasing number of universities, who take the initiative to contribute, makes the organization also successful with a strong international presence. This requires EdX to operate with highest level of transparency as well as integrity. Both of these approaches are reflected in the values of the organization.

Non-profit approach
As mentioned before, EdX is a non-profit, open-source provider, whose main initiative is spreading knowledge to a wide audience, thereby enabling students to gain experiences and develop their skills. Undoubtedly, this way of democratizing education without being driven by any profit is just another fact which makes us trust and admire the company.

Positive feedback
While making our research, we came across only positive experiences of participants. People who took the courses admitted that this experience has not replaced the traditional education system but it definitely added value to their resume and helped them reach a better job. Furthermore, besides these tangible benefits, participants admitted that this experience had a significant impact on their personal confidence level, which is important for success.

Online education is undoubtedly becoming more and more popular. One of the evidence that EdX, as a Massive open online course (MOOC) provider is a sustainable trustworthy “business“ is that MOOCs are becoming so popular that even Oxford has included the acronym on its dictionaries. Defined as “a course of study made available over the Internet without charge to a very large number of people”,

D.The possible challenges facing the company in the future and how you think this company may improve.

In spite of the initial successes of EdX’s movement, numerous challenges exist with the potential to significantly disrupt their positive momentum. The most pervasive challenge faced by EdX concerns the shockingly high non-completion rates of their courses. With a total retention rate of 7-9%, EdX have experienced difficulties when it comes to maintaining the interest and engagement of their students, perhaps due to the impossibility of adequately tailoring the learning experience/environment to suit the demands of individual participants. The challenge here concerns the method of enhancing the learning experience of individual students, without drastically raising enrollment fees to cover the associated infrastructure and R&D investments.

An additional challenge, with the potential to severely downgrade the credibility of EdX as an educational institution, concerns the effective assessment of student performance. As a MOOC provider, EdX lacks the typical infrastructure required to thoroughly assess the work and efforts of students, whilst critics lament their inherent inability to prevent plagiarism. EdX have experimented with test centres to overcome this challenge; however, this detracts from the availability and accessibility of the course (and the movement of EdX as a whole), whilst representing a significant learning barrier for many students. A potential method of improvement could involve shifting the course focus from standardized assessment towards a focus on personal development; however, whilst this would effectively work to enhance the welfare of participants, it would dampen the legitimacy of EdX as a provider of high-class education. An alternate solution comes in the form of enrollment fees for courses containing a more thorough method of evaluation, allowing for the provision of professor compensation.

Lastly, How can the establishment ensure the continuous development of fascinating, high-quality courses without charging students direct enrolment fees? Course development fees for EdX reach up to $250,000 per course, plus an additional $50,000 for every time the course is offered. As no direct compensation is provided for professors and lectures, whilst universities receive a small, commission-based compensation for the development of material, we are curious as to how EdX will expand, with regards to reach and materials, whilst simultaneously remaining true to their original values.



Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts (America)

Sector: Education

Official website: https://www.edx.org/

Key figures:

More than 3 million users, worldwide (as of October 2014).

Nbr. visits: 517

Nbr. inspires: 2