Online Education at Harvard – a new advance for democracy?

Distance education. Online learning. We’ve been hearing a lot these days about this new tool for teaching, this new way of leveraging technology to spread access to education as widely as possible, with as little effort – it must be said – as possible.
Harvard Extension School has been one of the pioneers in using the Internet to reach its ideal audience – adult learners who might not have been able to attend an Ivy League college, but who have the intelligence and curiosity to benefit from top-notch instruction, albeit virtually.

This Faculty Insight interview, produced in partnership with ThoughtCast and Harvard Extension School, is with Henry Leitner, the associate dean for Information Technology and Chief Technology Officer at Harvard’s Division of Continuing Education, and a senior lecturer on computer science at Harvard. Leitner also oversees the Distance Education initiative at the Extension School, and we spoke in a control room there, where many of these online courses are recorded.
What’s more, Leitner’s played a role in launching edX, a Harvard-MIT venture in online learning that’s gathering steam. It represents the MOOC  or massive open online course model, which can reach even greater numbers across the globe. These free online classes have the potential to penetrate closed societies and break down barriers, be they physical, psychological, cultural or – yes, educational.

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