A Smarter World: Anant Agarwal's Educational Revolution

There are very few students who have the chance to attend schools such as Harvard and MIT. To say universities of their caliber are selective is a complete understatement, and to say the tuition rates are high is putting it lightly. If you never get an acceptance letter from one of the world’s highly touted universities, you can enroll in online courses offered by these top schools for FREE, with people all over the world as your classmates. All of this is because of the vision of Anant Agarwal, an Electrical Engineering professor at MIT.

Agarwal is an advocate and pioneer of the execution of M.O.O.C. (Massive Open Online Courses), which are courses that can be taught and taken over the internet with large enrollment numbers. Agarwal felt that everyone in the world should have the chance to learn from the top universities, feeling that  the digital age we live in could make his vision a reality. Agarwal’s desire to transform education resulted in the forming of edX, which is a website offering over 1000 free courses spanning approximately 30 different subjects. “We have to completely re-imagine education, it’s like going from oxcarts to airplanes,” Agarwal said.

The first course edX offered was an online version of a circuits and electronics course Agarwal taught at MIT. Approximately 155,000 people from 162 countries enrolled in the course, and 7,157 people successfully completed it. This was an incredible first result, and it paved the way for several other courses to be taught at other top universities around the globe.

“The Millennial generation is completely comfortable with online technology, so why are we trying to fight it in the classroom?” Agarwal asked his audience during his speech at a TED conference. Agarwal saw a distinct benefit of M.O.O.C.S firsthand when monitoring one of his edX classes. A student was struggling to answer a problem, and while Agarwal was about to type a response to help a student find a solution, other students of the course from all parts of the world and several different time zones chimed in. After a while of trying to figure out the proper solution, the students got it right without any interjection from Agarwal. Since edX was founded in 2012, it has had over 7 million users sign up for a course. As time progresses, edX will continue to improve, offering more courses and sustaining its vast amount of users from all over the world.

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