Last updated: 21.11.12

US universities launch digital learning to community colleges

Top universities in the US are teaming up with two local community colleges to roll out online learning courses to students.

By using edX - the e-learning platform founded by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - the faculties intend to transform classroom education in various institutions.

Due to begin next spring, the project will offer individuals at the Bunker Hill Community College in Charlestown and MassBay Community College a modified version of edX's Introduction to Computer Science and Programming class.

This will include both in-class instruction at both facilities, while the teaching of three MIT professors will be provided via a digital learning portal to supplement the education.

So that the programme can go ahead, it is to receive $1 million (£630 million) funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which is looking to explore how high-quality education from notorious universities can be adapted for use alongside the instruction of local staff.

Anant Agarwal, edX president and professor at MIT, said the innovative methods used by the universities has the potential to transform the way community college students learn, both in and outside of everyday classrooms.

He added: "Our work with Bunker Hill and MassBay will enable us to work with other state institutions throughout the country to provide excellent educational opportunities on an ever-tightening budget."

Since edX was announced in May 2012 - after it received $30 million (£18.8 million) in investment funding from Harvard and MIT - it has expanded its services to the University of California in Berkeley and the University of Texas.

According to Dan Greenstein, director of postsecondary success at the Gates Foundation, the massive open online courses used by faculties such as Harvard and MIT are an exciting innovation and hold great promise.

He concluded: "We believe having diverse options for faculty and students that meet a wide array of learning needs and styles can enhance student engagement, improve educational outcomes and increase college completion rates."