edX President Anant Agarwal discusses the latest technologies in online learning, particularly in K-12.

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Transcript –edX is learning destination where we have learners from ages of eight years old to 95 years old on our platform. And so we’ve always had this interest in having a diverse set of courses whether at the high school level or university level, professional education and so on. A lot of our courses right now are university level courses and learners are looking for more basic courses, you know, they lack many of the prerequisites. And some of these prerequisite courses come from high schools. And so therefore it is really important that we get the high school courses on the platform. Certainly high school level courses, very basic courses, are more challenging from universities because universities tend to focus on courses that are at the university level.

And so with organizations like GEMS and high schools and so on we have the opportunity to get high school level courses that can be more on ramps, can serve as on ramps to university level courses. The challenges that are posed with high school level courses is that high schools very often don’t have the resources or video production capabilities and so on to create some of these quality courses. And so there tends to be more of an issue of how do you do the production? How do you provide the support for courses like this?
So our thinking there is that edX has a services team. We are very interested in getting what are called advanced placement level courses in the U.S. So one example is that we could use our production team to provide support for some of these courses. We’re also looking for funding from philanthropists and other foundations that might be able to provide the funding for these courses. We can then partner with high schools or other organizations like GEMS that can then create these courses. GEMS, for example, has a large cadre of teachers that are already providing, offering courses in a number of areas. And so an organization like GEMS is a natural one to partner to get these high school courses.
We also are thinking about courses that are before the advanced placement level. Think of pre-algebra for example. And we’re also developing a lot of tools that will enable students to do simulations and various kinds of online laboratories. That tends to be a challenge as well and we are looking to develop a small team within edX that can create some of these enriched content types as well.
STEM vs. Humanities: The edX Approach to Virtualization and Assessment

So STEM subjects versus humanities subjects tend to have different kinds of components that you need. In the STEM area one of the areas that tends to be challenging are laboratories. How do you provide the kind of hands on laboratory experience. At edX we’ve created online labs that we call, you know, virtual laboratories based on simulation technology. So there students can have a game-like experience as they work with the circuits lab or as they work with the chemistry lab. Or in physics, you know, they can work with an object like a pendulum so they can set the object at various places and see how it moves around all through simulations. So we’re able to use simulation technology to provide a rich game-like experience for the labs in STEM subjects.
Now let’s understand that, you know, not everything is possible to do. So, for example, in chemistry it is hard to capture the smell. But you can certainly look at color and some of the other compositional issues as you titrate different chemicals in various quantities and so on. Now in the humanities side there are other challenges. You may not have the laboratories along the lines of lab benches and so on but in humanities you have other challenges that we try to address in different ways. One example is for assessments in humanities tend to be assessments tend to focus heavily on open responses such as an essay, for example, or a descriptive response. [transcript truncated].

Directed / Produced by Jonathan Fowler
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