Anant Agarwal: The Man Who Founded EdX
Issue 11 | August 30, 2020
Massive Open Online Courses or MOOCs have been at the centre of a massive educational revolution that the world has witnessed over the past decade or so. Anyone with an internet connection can, thanks to MOOCs, learn any new subject of their choice from the best of professors, from the best of universities in the world, and earn a credential at the end.
MOOCs are, in true sense, acting as an agent that bridges the divide between the haves and have nots, the rich and the poor, the young and the old. The COVID-19 pandemic made it all the more apparent.
Whereas many are to be credited for bringing about this revolution, this piece is dedicated to Anant Agarwal, the founder of edX, one of the largest MOOC platforms in the world.
Anant Agarwal is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of edX. Born in Delhi, Anant did his schooling from St. Aloysius, Mangalore. He then went on to pursue a bachelor’s degree from the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology, Madras. His PhD is from the Stanford University in Electrical Engineering. He then joined the MIT University as a Professor of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering.
Anant passionately believed, and still does, that technology has the power to change education and education systems entirely. He marks that the last big innovation in the education sector was the introduction of the printing press and textbooks, and educational technology is the next big thing. In his own words, “given education has calcified for 500 years, we really cannot think about reengineering it, micromanaging it. We really have to completely reimagine it. It’s like going from ox carts to the airplanes.”
It is with this conviction and belief to reimagine education that he started edX. His first course on edX was a course on electrical circuits, which received a whopping participation of over 150000 students from over 162 countries of the world. As is evident, the platform became a thunderous success and serves students from around the world. Today, edX offers more than 2000 free online courses from 140 leading institutions worldwide, and is home to more than 20 million learners.
For his many notable contributions to the world community of learners as a Professor as well as a leader, Anant has received many an accolade. He won the Maurice Wilkes prize for computer architecture, and MIT's Smullin and Jamieson prizes for teaching. He is also the 2016 recipient of the Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Prize for Higher Education, which recognized his work in advancing the MOOC movement. He is a recipient of the Padma Shri award from the President of India, one of India’s highest civilian honours, and was named the Yidan Prize for Education Development Laureate in 2018. He held a Guinness World Record for the largest microphone array, and is an author of the textbook "Foundations of Analog and Digital Electronic Circuits."
Anant’s contributions to the field of education as well as its reimagination by way of technology are unparalleled. A leader, a teacher, a global revolutionary, his contributions shall remain etched in history forever.