Harvard and MIT’s Online Education Startup Has a New Way to Make Money

It’s been about a year and a half since massive open online courses (MOOCs) achieved notoriety, and the industry now has three giants: Coursera, Udacity, and EdX. Coursera and Udacity are West Coast-run, Stanford-spawned, for-profit standard-style startups.

EdX is different: It launched as an East Coast, non-profit collaboration between Harvard and MIT.

EdX, then, is more of a mystery. As a non-profit, it’s not concerned with, well, profit. But it is concerned with its own survival, so, this month, it debuted a new way of making money.

Until this fall, EdX had mimicked a tack Udacity and Coursera have taken: A “business-to-consumer” approach, in which students pay the course provider to verify their identity before they take a class on EdX.org, a kind of certification of achievement. To help get these verified learners, EdX has begun to link courses together into curriculum. (I wrote about these “XSeries” course sequences last month.)

The second push has come much more into view in October. It’s a “business-to-business” pitch—although, so far, we’ve seen it take effect in a business-to-nation way.


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