With GeorgetownX — Georgetown’s component of Harvard’s online learning platform edX — scheduled to launch with two massive open online courses next fall, the university has arranged to fund the program through fundraising channels targeting education and technology.

While Harvard has focused its capital campaign on edX, Georgetown will not fundraise for the program through either the annual fund or the Campaign for Georgetown, according to Vice President for Advancement R. Bartley Moore (SFS ’87).

The university, like its edX partners — which include Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology — is currently contributing funds to the program, which is still in its initial stages.

“Each of the member institutions is expected to fund a … designated level of advancement in the edXplatform,” Moore said.

Director of Media Relations Rachel Pugh said that information about the amount of Georgetown’s contribution is not available.

Provost Robert Groves emphasized the importance of increased fundraising for edX.

“All consortium schools can benefit from faster software development and improved services made possible from more staff resources,” Groves wrote in an email.

University administrators believe that the benefits of edX, including other universities’ contributions to the program, are worth the additional cost to Georgetown.

“We impart now, as a newer member, from all the commitment that [Harvard and MIT] already made,” Moore said.

Groves agreed.

“While there is no direct revenue, as a partner, Georgetown benefits from the technology created as part of the platform and the sharing of data on how students learn best,” Groves wrote.

According to Moore, the university’s two new major technology initiatives — the Initiative on Technology Enhanced Learning and the Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship — andedX are interconnected. CNDLS supports ITEL, which in turn supports edX.

“The investment we make in ITEL will directly complement the effort that the university is making to generate edX-ready curriculum and content,” Moore said. “[ITEL] focuses on accelerating and broadening the way in which the university’s existing curriculum incorporates new methods, including technology enabled methods, to enhance and enliven the learning experience for students inside and outside the classroom.”

According to Moore, most of Georgetown’s contributions to edX come from targeted donor outreach. Traditional fundraising methods, like alumni giving through the annual fund or the capital campaign, are more focused on student life and scholarships.

“Development officers, employed by the university, cultivate relationships with donors, actual and prospective, and then solicit them for gifts,” Moore said.

Moore added that these gifts tend to be larger and span multiple years.

However, convincing alumni — used to the traditional, intimate classroom learning experience — to donate to an online platform open to thousands can be difficult, Moore said.

“We still have a lot to learn about how the university’s donors will embrace something like edX,” Moore said. “The university’s commitment to it is full and unqualified, but we are finding that it takes a lot of education and a lot of conversation to sufficiently familiarize alumni and other donors to edX so they understand fully how it fits into the future of the university and our vision for it.”

Moore added that CNDLS and ITEL’s success indicate promise for edX.

“What we have found … is that when we talk about CNDLS and ITEL about getting the maximum benefit and leverage of technology for the more familiar, on-campus learning experience that so many of our donors recall so fondly, they react very favorably to that because they want Georgetown to continue to be among one of the very best in higher education in terms of the quality of the student learning experience,” Moore said.

Some alumni expressed this hesitation to donate to something unfamiliar.

“[I’ll] probably watch and perhaps participate in the experience myself before I give money to the program,” Joanna Wilson-Choi (SFS ’02) wrote in an email.

Nevertheless, Moore acknowledged edX’s youth.

“Part of edX is experimentation. It’s about acquiring skills and capacity to deliver teaching and learning effectively online, because we know we are going to have to do more of that in the future and do it very well,” Moore said. “But at the same time, we are going to be figuring out what the relationship of that work is that will remain the core of what we do, which is live, in-person learning on a residential campus.”

Other edX partners include Wellesley College, the University of Toronto, the University of California, Berkeley, the University of Texas at Austin, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Australian National University, McGill University, Rice University and Delft University of Technology.

 

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