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2U and edX: Expanding Access and Ushering in a New Era of Online Learning

Written by Christopher "Chip" Paucek on Jun 29, 2021

Related content: Higher Education, University

For the past 13 years, 2U has been on a journey of eliminating the back row in higher education. Today marks one of the most significant milestones in that journey and in the evolution and growth of online education. This morning, we announced that 2U will be joining together with edX, one of the world’s largest and most respected online education destinations and marketplaces.

After a historic year for digital education, which saw millions of people around the globe embracing online learning, this announcement marks the beginning of a story about two mission-aligned organizations with complementary strengths coming together to drive greater access to quality online education for learners, universities, and employers around the world. It’s a combination that we believe will redefine the education industry at a pivotal moment for higher education globally.

Although 2U and edX have each charted distincts paths over the past decade in defining and shaping online education, we have shared two core beliefs from inception. First, that great nonprofit universities are the most powerful engines of social and economic mobility. And second, that online learning has the potential to change lives and, in doing so, change the world.

When I co-founded 2U back in 2008, we took those beliefs and set out to expand access to higher education by bringing graduate degrees from great nonprofit universities online. We knew digital education could be as good as, if not better than, traditional on-campus learning, and soon we were helping the world’s leading institutions expand their impact by bringing the best of themselves online—not only through high-quality graduate and undergraduate degrees, but also hundreds of professional certificates, short courses, and boot camps.

MIT and Harvard launched edX in 2012 to bring people from all corners of the globe free access to the world’s best higher education through Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), and it sparked a revolution in education. With CEO and Founder Anant Agarwal at the helm, edX soon grew to become one of the world’s top five destinations for online education and one of the top 1,000 websites on the planet—a thriving online learning platform and marketplace where learners can find thousands of learning experiences from free MOOCs to stackable credentials and MicroBachelors® and MicroMasters® programs.

edX Founder and CEO Anant Agarwal and 2U Co-Founder and CEO Chip Paucek share their visions for the future of online learning in 2015

While 2U started its journey with online graduate degrees, and edX began with free MOOCs, both of our organizations have always held quality at their core. “The reach changes exponentially,” said MIT’s news office in 2012, “but the rigor remains the same.” High-quality experiences and strong learner outcomes are hallmarks of both 2U and edX’s learning experiences, with 97% of graduates from 2U-powered graduate degree programs achieving positive career outcomes and 87% of learners who completed a edX MicroMasters program reporting positive career outcomes today.

Together, 2U and edX will serve more than 230 partners and offer over 3,500 digital programs on the world's most comprehensive free-to-degree online education marketplace

By bringing together edX and 2U’s deeply aligned values, strengths, and complementary offerings, we’ll be able to make our shared mission of universal access to high-quality higher education a reality. Combined, 2U and edX will serve more than 230 partners, including 78% of the 50 best global universities ranked by U.S. News & World Report, and will offer over 3,500 digital programs on the world's most comprehensive free-to-degree online education marketplace, including graduate and undergraduate degrees, MicroMasters and MicroBachelors, professional certificates, short courses, boot camps, and free courses. Together, we will reach over 50 million learners globally, increasing our ability to help universities expand their impact around the world and build toward a more sustainable, online future.

While today, only 2% of higher education worldwide is digital, the next decade is expected to bring a massive shift online, and we believe that the market will increasingly demand both a quality experience and demonstrable outcomes—something we have a proven track record of delivering at scale.

Anant and the edX team have built an extraordinary organization and global community, and I couldn’t be more excited to work with them to continue to scale edX’s reach and impact. Together with our partner institutions and contributing faculty, we’ll bring learners everywhere more opportunities to accelerate their learning journeys, achieve their career goals, and enrich their lives.

Learn more about us.

At 2U, we’re on a mission—to eliminate the back row in higher education and help universities thrive in the digital age. To learn more about who we are and what we do, follow the links below.