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This week Stanford University announced their intention to create an online learning platform with Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) provider edX. The announcement comes as a surprise as edX is one of the MOOC providers not founded by Stanford faculty members; Udacity was founded by Stanford professor Sebastian Thrun, and Coursera was co-founded by Stanford professors Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng.

The partnership between the University and the non-profit entity will work towards making edX’s software available to developers around the globe.

“This is a great endorsement of the open source, non-profit approach for MOOCs,” Anant Agarwal, edX president, told Inside Higher Ed.

John Mitchell, vice provost of online education at Stanford University, said that the school still intends to offer MOOCs through Coursera. However, it was decided that the University will build a Stanford-branded platform with the help of edX.

Instead of offering MOOCs through this soon-to-be developed platform, it is expected that the University will offer Small Private Online Courses or “SPOCs”, as mentioned by Agarwal. The SPOCs will likely be offered to Stanford University students.

It is expected that edX will allow the software code to be freely available to other higher education institutions around the world. But, Agarwal admits that edX may need to eventually generate revenue in order for the non-profit organization to become sustainable. However, even with the code available for free, many institutions may decide to opt-out of developing courses in-house and instead partner with a company to take the code to market.

“I expect that we ourselves or other partners will offer the edX platform in a software-as-a-service model,” Argarwal told Inside Higher Ed. “In other words, universities would pay if they or their faculty wanted to use edX’s software.”

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