University President John J. DeGioia announced that Georgetown has joined edX, a platform for broadcasting massive open online courses, at an Economic Club of Washington, D.C., event Monday.

The platform, which was founded jointly by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is also used by such institutions as the University of California, Berkeley and Wellesley College, will allow Georgetown to broadcast select course offerings to thousands of viewers across the globe free of charge.

According to DeGioia, offering MOOCs will allow the university to learn how technology can best be used to enhance the classroom experience and to understand how teaching can be optimized for the digital sphere. DeGioia added that the introduction of MOOCs will not undermine the unique Georgetown educational experience, in which face-to-face interaction between students and professors is paramount.

“It’s hard to imagine how a lot of that [face-to-face interaction] could be replaced by MOOCs,” DeGioia said. “What it’s really about is finding the sweet spot … between a residential university with classrooms … blended with the use of technology.”

While course offerings on edX so far have been concentrated in the hard sciences, DeGioia said that Georgetown is likely to contribute social sciences and humanities courses.

“We’re delighted to have Georgetown as part of the group … with its capacity in public service … and government,” Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust, who was the feature speaker at the Economic Club Event, said.

Neither Georgetown nor its peer institutions currently plan to give credit for the courses they offer in MOOC format, but Faust said that Harvard has been issuing certificates for course completion.

According to University Provost Robert Groves, Georgetown’s investment in MOOCs is part of a broader scheme to embrace technology in the classroom, marked by its recent announcement of the Initiative on Technology-Enhanced Learning, which will distribute $8 million in grants for faculty- and student-generated technology proposals.

“It’s all one big fabric … all part of one package,” he said.

Groves added that the university plans to ramp up its information technology infrastructure in order to support these new initiatives.

DeGioia said that the first Georgetown MOOC will be launched on the edX platform in fall 2013.

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