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MIT and Harvard are Selling Its edX Platform to 2U Company. Latest News and Thoughts

MIT and Harvard are Selling Its edX Platform to 2U Company. Latest News and Thoughts

Recently, Harvard University and MIT have finalized their deal to sell their most famous edX online education platform to 2U. 2U is a non-profit educational and technological enterprise that provides its clients with cloud-based solutions, coursework development, infrastructure support, and other services. The deal took place on Tuesday, June 29 and boasts the purchase of all of edX's assets for an impressive $800 million in cash.

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Member of the Board, Raccoon Gang

Sergiy has 18 years of experience in eLearning and management. Creating educational programs, career paths, online and offline courses he is making the educational world better as a co-founder of RG.

MIT and Harvard are Selling Its edX Platform to 2U Company. Latest News and Thoughts

According to Harvard University and MIT, this deal will contribute to the platform’s record growth, which was noted during the pandemic. Lawrence Bacow, the president of Harvard, reassured many clients, saying that this deal was not made for profit but with a desire to give the platform an even more significant boost.

Also, edX has evolved to such an extent that it needs a transition to a higher level. And Lawrence Bacow believes that in the hands of 2U, the edX platform has a great future.

However, despite such a statement, many Open Edx community users still have questions that worry them. Therefore, a Q/A meetup was held to settle all the nuances we will talk about in this article.

OPEN EDX Community Q/A Meetup Notes

Note: At the time of this writing, there is still uncertainty about the answers to some questions. This section is a compilation of notes that were written to capture information on the meetup. Keep in mind that this information is not fully verified.

1) The first question asked at the meetup concerned the impact of having a separate non-profit organization on the future direction of the Open edX development. This question was answered as follows:

“Available funding means the non-profit can focus on reducing friction to enhance the Open edX platform.”

2) The next question worried many, and the community wanted to know the real reason for the existence of a separate non-profit company working on the Open edX project. A detailed answer was given to this question from which we wanted to highlight several of the following reasons:

  • “The pandemic focused institutions on educational technologies as a must-have.”

  • “edX was structured for the before-times world, but the need for educational technologies has been magnified.”

  • “We started to think about how we could bring all this value as far and as fast as we can. That was the beginning of looking for alternatives.”

3) The following question was relatively short and addressed choosing a non-profit company as a platform buyer.

“Open edX was set up as a non-profit organization, so by law, the products need to go to a non-profit.  Important to see that public good remains a public good.” 

Besides that, another reason for this choice was indicated:

“The types of products are extremely complimentary between edX and 2U.”

4) The community wanted to know how long the $800M funding would last and if the profit organization was expected to generate income in any way.

“We have the same questions. We’ll be waiting for Harvard/MIT and their named leader to answer.”

5) After that, the community was interested in where the transfer would go. Many wanted to know if the $800 million will go to a non-commercial bank account or another account. A short answer has been given to this question:

“Yes, the transfer will go to a non-commercial bank account.”

6) The community asked if they would know who would be the head of the new non-profit organization. From the expanded answer, we want to highlight the following point:

“The exact answer is unknown since it’s dependent on Harvard and MIT. Besides that, we don’t know if there’s any input involved in the selection process.”

7) The following question was related to the sales process and its duration. It is worth paying attention to the following points:

  • “While the deal has been signed, we start a period of regulatory review, antitrust review, and so on. This may take 120 days for deals of this sort.”

  • “For now, the two companies are still competitors. So what edX was going to do pre-announcement is going to continue.”

  • “Planning around “If the deal closes, what will we need to do?” will still happen, but otherwise, what we had in-flight will continue to be in flight.”

8) The next question was about the fate of the Community Engineering team, namely whether they will remain in the Open edX or move to the non-profit.

  • “All current edX employees will stay as part of edX as a wholly-owned subsidiary.”

  • “We don’t know how the non-profit will be staffed.”

  • “The non-profit will need to figure this out and will open roles, presumably.” (This answer is speculation)

9) After that, many wondered who would own the GitHub repos for Open edX after the sale.

  • “For things that are deemed open source – which will need to be defined – the owner of those repos will be non-profit.”

  • “The specific details of this are going to be a pile of work that will take time. The current identification of those repos is presumably imperfect and will need to be refined.”

10) Another thing that worried the community was the fate of links to repositories, namely, will they break if something moves from one organization to another. A detailed answer was given to this question, and the following points are worth attention:

  • “We think Github is pretty good about following links around and will automatically redirect.”

  • “We’ll have business continuity in mind as we go through managing these changes.”

  • “By “rename” or “change ownership”, we don’t mean to be specific about the manner of how that works. We don’t want to break everyone’s business.”

11) Another piece of news is that now we know the ownership principle in more detail. Now the non-profit organization will manage Open edX while edX becomes “a major” community member.

12) “The split between the non-profit and the part of edX that becomes part of 2U is a forcing function to help us straighten out the details of what is Open edX and what isn’t. This operation will help us get crisper, cleaner, more organized in a shorter time period than it might otherwise have happened.”

13) After that, a rather interesting question was asked, which we will describe in a direct speech:

“In terms of technical decisions we’ve made in the last month or so, the announcement that e-commerce may not be here anymore, or us using tutor instead of docker. Does any of that change with this announcement? Will we have to make difficult decisions again?” 

The community has received detailed answers, and we would like to highlight the following points:

  • “Everything in flight yesterday remains in flight today – it doesn’t impact any of the technical decisions that were made.”  

  • “The folks at edX aren’t changing what they’re going to do because that sort of planning is not allowed until the deal closes.”

  • “But like anything, as new information becomes available, we need to evaluate it and decide if it warrants a change.” 

14) This question was about what the non-profit organization Open edX will offer as a product after the platform sale process.

“Code? The installation? The images? We don’t know yet.”

15) The following question was about the possibility of maintaining the label if the non-profit organization is a separate organization.

  • “The brand of Open edX moves along with the code to the non-profit.”

  • “A lot of back and forth about continuing the value that Open edX brings to the world.” (Most likely, the answer to the question posed is still not clear.)

16) The last question of the conference was about the likelihood that the deal will not take place (the question was asked 2021-06-29 before the deal was made).

“I expect it will be smooth sailing.”

Our Thoughts

The sale news was a surprise to many community members and Open Edx providers, as well as the Raccoon Gang team. We see the significant potential and inevitable benefits of such a deal for Open Edx platform because of notable fundings and creating a new non-profit that focuses on the platform development.

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