Starting this Friday, Aug. 1, the more than 300,000 students who registered for the Linux Foundation’s free Introduction to Linux course on edX will be able to log in and start learning Linux. It is the first Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on Linux, opening training access to anyone around the world with an Internet connection. It’s also part of a larger revolution in education being led by edX, the online learning platform founded by Harvard and MIT.
“Open EdX is an open-source platform that I believe has the potential to form the foundation of online learning around the world,” says Anant Agarwal, CEO of edX. “Much like Linux transformed the computing world, I believe open source will transform education as well.”
Agarwal will give a keynote talk on “Reinventing Education Through Massive Open Online Courses” at LinuxCon and CloudOpen North America in Chicago, Aug. 20-22, 2014. In this Q&A interview he discusses why the Intro to Linux course has been so popular, the role of Linux and open source in education, and how to get involved in Open EdX.
Linux.com: Enrollment in the upcoming Intro to Linux course on edX has reached more than 150,000 registrants – what is creating this kind of demand for Linux training?
Anant Agarwal: With edX, we have learners from all over the world coming to our platform to learn about all sorts of things. Areas of study that bridge skills gaps and can help people get jobs, get promotions and do better in existing jobs are extremely popular with our learning community. Whether in the USA or India or other countries of the world, Linux is a very critical area of knowledge. Software development and Linux in general are extremely valuable skills for people. The Linux course has been among our top three most popular courses on edX in terms of enrollment.
How does this compare to the other courses you offer and why the difference?
There are many reasons why the Intro to Linux course has become one of our most popular courses. One reason is that it is an introductory course, and these tend to draw a much larger learner base than the more advanced courses.
Secondly, people see a connection between learning about Linux and being able to get the right set of skills to advance in their careers. There are millions of Linux-related jobs available in all countries in the world. We have more than 2.5 million learners today from every country in the world, and Linux is a global phenomenon. Linux drives cloud data centers, enterprise computing and forms the foundation of a large part of computing that happens around the world today.
The third is it’s a course being offered by the Linux Foundation itself. Students will get to learn about Linux from the experts. All of these things contribute to the course’s popularity. And, of course, it is free.
In your LinuxCon keynote you plan to speak about the future of online education – what is that future?
My keynote will talk about the online movement and where it’s going, the future of education and why there’s a lot of excitement about MOOCs. In particular, I see a lot of synergy and connection between what we’re doing and the Linux community. Our open-source platform is the Linux of learning. What Linux has done for computing, edX has done for education. Linux is at the foundation of all computing today and similarly I think online learning will be at the heart of education around the world.
Open EdX is an open-source platform that I believe has the potential to form the foundation of online learning around the world. We’ve seen a number of nations beginning to adopt it, China, France, The Queen Rania Foundation in Jordan and Saudi Arabia, for example. Our hope is that, much like Linux, we’ll be able to make an impact around the world.
What role will Linux and open source play in that future?
Much like Linux transformed the computing world, I believe open source will transform education as well. Education is a fundamental human right. An open platform is important to making progress. With open source we can benefit from the collective improvements the whole community can make. Universities, individuals and countries can take our open-source platform and use it for what and how they want and at the same time make improvements to it. Google is an open-source member of edX and has contributed technologies for single sign-on and integration of things like Google hangouts and student help sessions to edX. And we have many other technology partners who have contributed as well.
We can move exponentially faster as the whole community moves to adopt the open-source philosophy. If you have a global standard, everyone can contribute and improve the same thing rather than have separate, isolated efforts. Open source is very critical for rapid adoption and improvement in technology around the world. And that’s why it’s very important.
Anything else you’d like to mention about your talk?
We are really delighted to host the introductory Linux course on edX, and from what I’ve seen it’s going to be an absolutely spectacular course. I’m looking forward to more courses from the Linux Foundation and the Linux community engaging with edX. I hope you’ll come to edX and take these courses and also contribute to the platform. Go to openedx.org where you can see the open-source software and community. I encourage you to become part of the community to follow our road map and updates. We’ll also have an Open edX developers conference on Nov. 19 in the Boston area.