IMF joins online learning venture edX as its first non-university partner

Since its launch last year, the Harvard- and MIT-backed online learning site edX has convinced nearly 30 colleges and universities around the world to join its platform. But this week, the non-profit provider of massive open online courses (MOOCs) announced its first partnership with a non-university institution – the International Monetary Fund.

The IMF already offers training courses in macroeconomics and finance to policy makers and finance officials around the world, but it plans to use edX to expand its reach.  To start, it will offer two courses —Financial Programming and Policies and Debt Sustainability Analysis— to small groups of government officials in the coming months. It plans to open up its courses to the public in 2014.

“The training we provide is aimed at increasing the capacity of officials to analyze and formulate sound macroeconomic and financial policies,” Sharmini Coorey, director of the IMF’s Institute for Capacity Development, said in a statement. “We look forward to being able to offer online access to a broader audience through future massive open online courses.  We hope that these short courses will be useful to students and teachers, the financial services industry, members of parliament and civil society, and many others, thus promoting greater understanding of economic policy issues.”

For the most part, the conversation around MOOCs has focused on boosting access, cutting costs and improving quality in higher education. But the IMF partnership highlights MOOCs’ value in fields beyond formal education and as tool for professional training and development. edX describes the partnership with the IMF as an pilot but, depending on its success, it seems likely that the organization would add collaborations with other non-educational institutions as well.