On March 5, 2012, MIT will take a historic step forward into the uncharted waters with a free online course which will be taught and assessed completely online, administered through their new MITx Learning Management System.
The first course under the MITx pilot – 6.002x (Circuits and Electronics), has the exact same curriculum as a real course of the same name taught in-person at MIT.
But more surprising than MIT’s unwillingness to water down the online course is the fact that this course is open and free to anyone anywhere in the world. You can sign up, take the course and get a full certificate from MITx without paying them any fees or having to take any kind of entrance test or satisfy other eligibility criteria.
The only thing that a student needs is the mental acumen to understand math and science concepts that may come in handy when studying for the course. The 10 hour/week course is expected to last until June 8, 2012.
But what is fascinating from our point of view is the revolutionary capability of their learning platform. Everything the student needs is available on the platform, including videos, eTextbooks and a virtual lab.
According to the MITx website, the platform:-
– Organizes and presents course material to enable students to learn worldwide.
– Features interactive instruction, online laboratories and student-to-student and student-to-professor communication.
– Operates on an open-source, scalable software infrastructure in order to make it continuously improving.
The course is being taught 100 percent online and students will be assessed by Anant Agarwal, director of MIT’s CSAIL (Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory), along with Gerald Sussman and Piotr Mitros.
Rarely is anything so disruptive available for free to all parties concerned, because it requires a lot of people putting in a lot of concerted effort and expecting to be rewarded handsomely for their efforts. But in this case, students are able to join the course and get certified for free. The platform is open source and can be used, modified or distributed by others for free.
But MITx is in fact aiming a lot higher towards actually imparting learning rather than handing out certifications. The pilot project depends on an honor code that expects students to remain honest, submit their own work and not share their login with anyone else. But in future, they will be able to verify all the work.
In Fall 2012, MITx will be rolling out additional courses in other areas. MIT is keeping a close watch on how the courses proceed, so they can find out which courses can be offered completely online and which ones need some offline support.
If it works out, this could have far reaching implications on traditional education since even technical courses can now be delivered online through this kind of Learning Management System. Students would be spending less time on campus and more time studying online at their own convenience. It is bound to be very popular as a tool for workforce training too, since valuable employees will not need to be given time off for further education.