University of Michigan joins edX as charter member


The University of Michigan announced a partnership Monday with global nonprofit online learning destination edX, further expanding the university’s experimentation with digital learning and learning analytics.

Under the name MichiganX, the university will launch at least 20 new courses on edX during the next two years that leaders from the Office of Digital Education and Innovation say will draw upon the breadth of U-M’s 101 academic programs ranked in the top 10, and align with strategic institutional priorities such as interdisciplinary collaborations, diversity and inclusion, access and affordability, and internationalization.

Three of the first courses will focus on finance, learning analytics and data science ethics.

“Michigan is redefining public residential education for the 21st century. With this new partnership we are accelerating our experimentation in digital learning and reaffirming our commitment to leadership in learning analytics,” said Provost Martha Pollack. “It’s wonderful to see the growth of faculty-led initiatives that provide new modes of learning and rich opportunity for cutting edge scholarship.”

As a founding partner in Coursera, U-M was one of the first universities to offer massive open online courses to learners around the world. The university’s relationship with Coursera will continue, along with one established more recently with NovoEd. Leaders say edX adds yet another unique opportunity for faculty to experiment in the digital space.

 “This new partnership aligns closely with our mission and values. Our core commitment is about experimenting, learning and adapting in order to shape the future of higher education,” said James Hilton, vice provost for digital educational initiatives.

“EdX and Coursera provide very different models with different sweet spots for experimentation. We are thrilled that our faculty will be able to take advantage of both platforms to push the boundaries of discovery.”

A major appeal of the edX platform, DEI leaders said, is that it is an open-source platform that focuses on increasing access to education, improving educational quality on campuses and online, and researching ways to advance teaching and learning.

“We’ve embraced a digital innovation strategy at DEI to realize a new, lifelong approach to delivering a Michigan education,” said James DeVaney, associate vice provost for digital education and innovation.

“Anchoring our scholarly and practical approach in digital learning and learning analytics, we’ve reached 3.6 million lifelong learners through MOOCs since 2012, and have created the infrastructure and capacity to partner with faculty innovators to dramatically increase Michigan’s impact.

“If we continue to harness the best technology and deepen our use of learning analytics, we know the ripple effect of Michigan’s academic excellence and alumni network will be felt around the world.”

The DEI recently brought the CEO of edX to campus to share the organization’s vision with faculty, staff and students.

“We are honored to welcome the University of Michigan to edX,” said Anant Agarwal, edX CEO and MIT professor. “As one of the most prestigious public research institutions in the U.S., and a pioneer in digital learning and learning analytics, Michigan will be an important collaborator with edX both in technology and research contributions. We are delighted to now offer Michigan’s highly engaging MOOCs, in a wide variety of subject areas, to our five million edX learners around the world.”

One of the new courses to be offered is “Finance for Everyone: Smart Tools for Decision-Making,” taught by Gautam Kaul, professor of finance and Fred M. Taylor Professor of Business Administration.

Kaul was one of the first U-M faculty members to offer a course on the Coursera platform. Since U-M ran his first successful finance MOOC three years ago, Kaul now has packaged a series of courses together to offer a rigorous introduction to investing and valuation. In fact, U-M will more than double its MOOCs on the Coursera platform — growing from 20 entering the fall to more than 50 by December.

Kaul, who serves as DEI’s first Innovator in Residence, has become a huge proponent of MOOCs for both global online learners and students enrolled on campus. He said participation in the nonprofit edX platform will allow even more learners to develop a better understanding of finance.  

“With the help of strategic investments U-M has made in digital learning, I’ve been able to reach nearly a million global learners through MOOCs while transforming the way I engage students on campus. I’m excited to experiment with the edX platform to continue our quest to redefine residential learning,” Kaul said.

A second new course will focus on learning analytics and will be taught by Timothy McKay, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Physics and Astronomy and a DEI Academic Innovation Fellow.

McKay’s work with personalized education in his physics classes expanded to other courses in LSA, and now is making its way across the university. DEI is working with McKay to scale his program to serve U-M and beyond. Offering this MOOC on a platform dedicated to research outcomes is one more way to move it forward, he said.

“At U-M we believe personalization at scale is within reach. We care deeply about enriching the lives of learners on campus and around the world” McKay said. “With edX we will continue to employ personalization and learning analytics to improve the effectiveness of student learning, our teaching, and the design of courses and curricula.”

A third course will focus on data science ethics and will be taught by H. V. Jagadish, Bernard A Galler Collegiate Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

“With a new MOOC on data science ethics we will add an important dimension to the rapidly evolving field of data science by providing global learners with a framework to think about the ethical questions surrounding the use, integration and analysis of data,” DeVaney said. 



  1. Furqan Nazeeri
    on October 5, 2015 at 9:18 am

    This is exciting! As a Michigan alum and as someone who’s been involved in online learning for years, specifically with the edX community, I and thrilled to see Michigan joining the annex consortium. I do think as a nonprofit and as open source that edX is the best MOOC platform. I look forward to some real Innovation from Michigan around personalization I would love to see your contributions to the Open edX platform.

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