Harvard Hopes to Find a Way of Sustainability with its New Open edX Platform

“The additional revenue from HarvardXPlus will contribute to the sustainability of HarvardX and defray some of the costs of producing the online materials
,” Faculty director of HarvardX Robert A. Lue said for The Harvard Crimson about its new premium model on MOOCs.

The HarvardXPlus platform will charge between $200 and $500 for enrollments in four eight-week courses, starting on September. This, according to The Harvard Crimson, will signal a move towards more financially sustainable online learning models”, after the “fiscal sustainability of the HarvardX has come under question.”

“Charging a fee will provide financial incentive to finish the course,” said Lue. According to a recent report, 5 percent of non-paying HarvardX participants completed the course, while those who paid for certification had around a 59 percent completion rate.

Lue emphasized that HarvardXPlus is “experimental,” and more premium courses are currently in the works. According to Lue, HarvardX will evaluate the first iteration of the program after the courses are completed this fall.

HarvardXPlus promises students expanded content and a more intimate contact with peers, teaching fellows, and faculty. In addition, the program will also provide those who complete the course with a “branded credential,” a two-page document that describes in detail the learning objectives, outcomes, and skills acquired throughout the course. Enrollment will be capped in the hundreds, as opposed to the tens of thousands who enroll in HarvardX courses.

HarvardXPlus –with courses on biochemistry, business contracts, world and China literature– requires a fee for enrollment; HarvardX –the Harvard-specific branch of the edX platform– allows participants to purchase $50 to $150 verified certificates for otherwise free courses.