Earlier this week, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) announced their decision to sell virtual learning platform edX to 2U Inc, a tech start-up based in Maryland.
The schools are expected to receive $800 million in cash for the sale, the full proceeds of which will be used to fund a non-profit for inclusive education. The transaction is expected to be completed this fall.
University President Lawrence S. Bacow and Provost Alan M. Garber expressed their optimism for edX’s future with 2U in an email to Harvard affiliates that announced the acquisition.
“The agreement with 2U ensures the sustainability of the edX mission — including continued access to low-cost and free courses — through capital investments at the level required to reach learners globally with a wide range of courses across multiple disciplines and fields,” they explained.
edX was first created in 2012 and now offers over 3,300 courses with more than 160 partner universities. It has attracted more than 39 million learners worldwide, most of whom are college-educated and use the platform for continued learning.
Helping edX Move Forward
A statement from MIT explained that in its current state, edX “does not have the resources to compete in the rapidly evolving for-profit online learning marketplace as a platform that aggregates course content from other institutes.”
“For several years, online learning has been the subject of growing investment by commercial firms,” they wrote. “The pandemic accelerated that trend, with increasing investment enabling those companies to improve their online platforms and spend heavily on marketing to learners and universities.”
The two universities explored other alternatives alongside investment advisors and nonprofit attorneys. However, they determined that a partnership with 2U “allows edX, MIT, and Harvard to preserve much of the public good of edX and presents an opportunity to build on that success with a new initiative focused on shaping the future of digital learning.”