By Andrew Nusca
Posting in Education
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology's new open-source education platform promises to bring free online education to the masses. The name? MITx.
Online education is hardly new, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is no stranger to it. But the renowned U.S. school's latest effort hopes to bring its style of education to, well, anyone with a computer.
Called "MITx," the initiative intends to bring interactive coursework to willing students, regardless of their location or prior education, through the use of its open-source, scalable software platform called OpenCourseWare -- which the school says allows it to be "continuously improving."
While peer universities explore physical campuses in nations far from home, MIT seeks to construct what appears to be an entirely virtual one -- accessible for free.
"Creating an open learning infrastructure will enable other communities of developers to contribute to it, thereby making it self-sustaining," said MIT professor Anant Agarwal, who leads the school's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and development of the platform. "An open infrastructure will facilitate research on learning technologies and also enable learning content to be easily portable to other educational platforms that will develop."
Successful completion of coursework, plus a "modest fee," entitles the student to a certificate of mastery from MIT. (A full degree from the school retains its "special distinction," MIT notes reassuringly.)
The initiative is expected to launch in Spring 2012, though an introductory website is already live. The first course, "6.002x: Circuits and Electronics," was announced on Monday; enrollment for the course is now open.
Feb 14, 2012
We've known for over 30 years that lecturing is the worst way to transmit information, and yet, the vast majority of even the 'best' schools still use it as a main method. It is about time that education got rolling online en mass, as campuses are stretched to get good teachers, and tuition/housing/books have skyrocketed, while quality of education has remained constant or dropped. The online model finnally permits you to have the best teachers at the lowest cost regardless of your location--increasingly the courses are free, with a fee for certification. Given the drastic decline in value of a college degree over the past 40 years (throughout that period it has become common to have illiterate college 'graduates,' as more and more positions required degrees (whether or not a degree was of any use,) the degrees have increasingly become 'job hooting permits.' The original functions of higher education in training people for research, and teaching have become increasingly a smaller portion of the goal for the students...Universities have become far too often merely another hoop to jump through to find a job. Originally, Phd's were awarded for 'contributing significant new knowledge to the field.' most devolved to re-digesting previous research in hopes of finding something 'new.' Feld research has largely been replaced by library research--which can be useful, but makes the assumption that the original research was done properly, something which is not always the case. All of tyhe truely interesting things are found in the edges, those places where we get unpredicted and often widely varying results--yet standard research protocols ignore results which are mathematically 'extreme' Making the assumption that anything that doesn't 'fit' must be an error in the procedure rather than an actual result of interest. It has been possible for several years to learn nearly anything you want online for free--provided you are willing to work largely unguided (though since most university courses put their syllabus on line, there are road maps.) As we require fewer and fewer people to handle the basic needs of society, there are an increasing number of people who will never be employed--our choice becomes, do we encourage them to keep learning, or do we encourage them to watch TV and consume? Like the entertainment industry, for every huge step forward, we have hundreds or thousands of research projects which return little of value--but financing a large group provides more assurance of at least on /breakthrough,' than financing only a very few selected projects. The whole point of pure research is that you don't know what you will find--though you can bet that most of the time you won't find anything new or different. An educated public is vitally necessary to a democratic republic, to advancement of society, and even individual self-respect--especially in a society like the US which values people primarily upon their position rather than their personal value. If people are to survive in an economy where 20-30% employment is 'full employment,' we must come up with a different way to provide self-worth unless we wish to waste the asset vale of millions of human brains. We also need to find a way to run an economy which doesn't depend upon infinitely increasing consumption, as it is unsustainable. Making good education freely available is a necessary precursor to these changes.
Well said. However, knowledge is power and the sharing of knowledge deserves some amount of compensation. Instead of free, I would support low-cost. Most community college courses are relatively low-cost and the resulting "certification" comes at the price of prior course work that has already been prepaid.