Since MOOCs have taken the online education industry by storm, three big companies have emerged: Coursera, Udacity, and EdX. Coursera and Udacity are using similar business models – a for-profit, business-to-consumer model. EdX is doing something a little different. It started as a non-profit, and is now veering towards a business-to-business approach with the launch of Open EdX back in September.
EdX, then, is more of a mystery. As a non-profit, it’s not concerned with, well, profit. But it is concerned with its own survival, so, this month, it debuted a new way of making money.
Until this fall, EdX had mimicked a tack Udacity and Coursera have taken: A “business-to-consumer” approach, in which students pay the course provider to verify their identity before they take a class on EdX.org, a kind of certification of achievement. To help get these verified learners, EdX has begun to link courses together into curriculum. (I wrote about these “XSeries” course sequences last month.)
The second push has come much more into view in October. It’s a “business-to-business” pitch—although, so far, we’ve seen it take effect in a business-to-nation way.
It has a different product for this pitch, too: “Open EdX.” Announced in September, Open EdX is the code that makes EdX.org work; it’s a platform for MOOCs.
So far in October, EdX has announced partnerships using the Open EdX code with the nations of France and China. Both countries will adopt EdX’s software for their own national MOOC networks—and, for an ongoing fee, EdX will supply technical support and advice.
I talked to Anant Argarwal, the president of EdX, about these new national deals earlier this month. He saw them as an expansion of a contract EdX already holds with the International Monetary Fund, in which EdX hosts and administers courses for that bank for a fee.
“From a business standpoint, does it make sense to give [the platform] away [like this]?” he said. “The answer is yes.” Especially since organizations will then pay you to advise how they should use the platform.