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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Stanford University announced Wednesday that it is joining forces with Harvard and MIT on developing a computer system that allows colleges to offer free online courses, a collaboration that school officials said would benefit both educators and students around the globe.

Stanford already has its own fledgling platform for delivering so-called massive open online courses, or MOOCS. But the university has decided to suspend work on it in favor of the software developed by the two East Coast universities, called edX, Vice President John Mitchell said.

Stanford still plans to offer some of its courses through Coursera, a commercial Internet course provider founded by two Stanford professors. But with the demand for online learning increasing rapidly, it makes sense for academic institutions to team up instead of compete, Mitchell said.

"Together, I think we will have a chance to produce a much better platform than each of us would be able to do individually," he said, adding that the software that emerges from the alliance has the potential to become the "Linux of online learning."

As part of the collaboration, elements of Stanford's Class2Go system will be incorporated into edX before Harvard and MIT make the program's source code available for the asking on June 1, edX President Anant Agarwal said. Since the first class went up on edX last year, an MIT electrical engineering taught by Agarwal, the two founding schools had always planned to share it so outside programmers and researchers could adapt and refine it, he said.

"I really believe this will enable true, planet-scale application of online education," Agarwal said.

While some future Stanford courses will be produced using edX, Stanford plants to retain its own online course portal instead of using the edX web site to register students, which colleges such as the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Texas at Austin now do.


(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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