Leading MOOC provider edX has broken from its fee-free ethos and will charge for professional education courses starting next year. Fees for the five courses announced so far range from $US49 to $US1249 ($1421), a departure for edX, which until now has offered courses for free. Until now, edX has only charged to issue a student with a verified certificate of completion, and then in only some courses.
EdX, a not-for-profit consortium started by two elite US universities, Harvard and MIT, was a pioneer in free online education. It started offering massive open online courses, or MOOCs, two years ago.
Three Australian universities, ANU, Queensland and Adelaide, are members of the edX consortium.
In a blog post, edX CEO Anant Agarwal said edX remained committed to offering courses free of charge.
Delivering free education to everyone, everywhere will always be our focus, he said.
But he said edX also planned to expand its fee-paying professional education and subjects would include leadership, IT, business, education, engineering, energy, medicine and big data.
Professor Agarwal said by using edXs professional education platform, its member organisations could offer professional courses cheaper than by using traditional means, and reach a broader base of learners.
The professional education courses will be aimed to fit in with working peoples schedules and will be shorter than most other edX courses running for only a few weeks of even a few days. Some will offer continuing education, or professional education credit, although this is likely to be under the US accreditation system.
Professor Agarwal said edX is also offering its member organisations the ability to use the edX platform to deliver courses under their own brand, instead of edX.
The five professional education courses announced so far cover cybersecurity, energy sustainability, healthcare, innovation and laboratory safety.
EdX says the professional education courses will be aimed at specific industries or professional skill sets with an emphasis on hands-on learning.