Hamilton announces partnership with edX

By Phoebe Greenwald '15

Hamilton College prides itself on being a small liberal arts institution that offers students a variety of opportunities to interact with professors on a personal level. In fulfillment of its mission to promote education in all its forms, Hamilton College recently joined the online learning platform, edX.

The platform offers interactive classes taught by professors at the world’s leading universities and colleges. It is a nonprofit service co-founded by Harvard University and MIT. The site offers real classes, which students can take at their own convenience and at no cost. The registration process is quick, simple and completely free. Essentially, edX makes college-level education accessible to anyone with a computer. Coursework is progressive and classes have set deadlines for essays and exams, much like traditional college classes.

Although most edX courses are taught in English, some are also taught in Chinese and French. EdX is currently working to incorporate more multi-lingual classes into its curriculum in order to further increase education accessibility.

However, edX courses are not credit-bearing. Therefore, students do not receive an official transcript. Likewise, completing edX courses does not result in a traditional Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science degree, though students can still receive certificates for individual classes. Students can also receive “XSeries” certificates, which indicate the completion of a series of classes. XSeries certificates demonstrate expertise in a specific subject area, in the way that a traditional major or minor might.

On a global scale, edX offers a new medium for advanced learning in a world where education is becoming increasingly expensive and inaccessible. Virtually anyone can register and benefit from the world’s best educators. This means that one class might be composed of students from Pakistan, Honolulu or Florida, from a range of backgrounds.

“There is considerable geographical diversity in MOOCs [Massive Open Online Courses] that we can never have at Hamilton,” explained Vice President for Libraries and Information Technology Services Dave Smallen. “Generally hundreds of learners are international students.  There might be opportunities for our students to interact with the international perspectives of students in MOOCs, for example by serving a monitors for online discussions.”

This means that Hamilton’s “classroom experience” will not disappear with the advent of edX. Students can actually interact on edX with peer-to-peer social learning tools, such as class-specific forums. As a result, the Hamilton learning environment will continue to promote teamwork and social learning, even in the digital realm.

Hamilton currently plans on offering two classes through edX. The specific classes are still undetermined, but they will likely include one course in the humanities and another in quantitative and symbolic reasoning. This means that Hamilton professors will have the chance to share their on-campus pedagogy with the world and allow Hamilton as a whole to get involved in the development of online learning. Students will also have the opportunity to get involved with edX as workers. Smallen explained, “Students working with edX faculty will become research and teaching partners as they help monitor discussion forums and develop interactive exercises that will be part of the offerings.”

With these courses, students across the globe can experience a Hamilton College education. EwdX gives Hamilton students and faculty the chance to share their passions with the rest of the world.


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