We were curious. Two years after the launch of edX, who is using its platform? Where are they located? What is the level of interest?
A little investigation and data scraping from the edX website yielded some interesting numbers. A year in, edX is now providing a platform for 35 institutions of higher learning. This is an impressive figure so soon after its inception — already more than a third of rival Coursera’s partnerships with every reason to believe that growth will continue at this pace.
Of these 35 partners, about half are in the United States; the other half are sprinkled around the globe with a fairly even split between institutions in Asia and Europe.
The top contributing universities are also in the United States with MITx and HarvardX leading the way. The “X” refers to schools offering an Xseries Certificate of Achievement, which requires that students pass tests in a group of modules to earn a certificate that can be used to prove achievement for job applications, promotions and school applications.
The presence of MIT and Harvard as the top contributors is not surprising as they are the original founders of edX, and MIT had been offering courses online for free long before the term MOOC was even invented. The Xseries certificate is a more recent development and is unique to edX courses — a boon to those who cannot overcome the location and costs barrier to subject mastery posed by more traditional paths.
The courses currently offered via edX seem to be dominated by the sciences. These numbers are not as indicative as they might seem, however, as the topics are not mutually exclusive. A technical course could be counted as both science and engineering, for example. Likewise, a history course could be counted twice — once as history and another as a humanities course. With 51 humanities courses, the course types could be more balanced than appears at first glance.
The map of regional search interest contains a few surprises. With most of edX partners and contributing universities located in the United States, one might expect the greatest interest to be in the U.S. as well. Google’s map shows otherwise. The regional interest map shows India as leading the way in interest about edX, followed by Egypt, Singapore, Greece and Pakistan.
The knee-jerk reaction is to attribute India’s standing to its population — wouldn’t the numbers be reflective of its position as the world’s most densely populated nation? But this Google Insight metric has nothing to do with population.
Google’s regional interest map is a measure of interest based on searches for a specific search term — in this case, edX — but it is more than a count of searches. The metric is a relative one, crunched by a Google algorithm that compares number of searches for a search term compared to all Google searches in the country. The results are then normalized — the country with the most interest is assigned a score of 100 and other regions are scored relative to that.
So India clearly has the most interest in edX with Egypt and Singapore also quite interested. At the bottom of the leader list is Hong Kong with 55 percent of India’s interest. By contrast, the United States has a score of 39.
This global interest along with the growth in number of partners demonstrates that edX is making giant strides toward achieving its top stated goal: “Expand access to education to everyone.”
The interest in countries thousands of miles away from most edX universities means that edX is doing just this — effectively providing access to knowledge that has never before been possible. It’s too early to say “Mission Accomplished,” but edX is well on its way to being able to fly that banner.