Millions of learners have enjoyed the free lecture videos and other course materials published online through the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s OpenCourseWare project. Now MIT plans to release a fresh batch of open online courses—and, for the first time, to offer certificates to outside students who complete them.
The credentials are part of a new, interactive e-learning venture, tentatively called MITx, that is expected to host “a virtual community of millions of learners around the world,” the institute will announce on Monday.
Here’s how it will work: MITx will give anyone free access to an online-course platform. Users will include students on the MIT campus, but also external learners like high-school seniors and engineering majors at other colleges. They’ll watch videos, answer questions, practice exercises, visit online labs, and take quizzes and tests. They’ll also connect with others working on the material.
The first course will begin around the spring of 2012. MIT has not yet announced its subject, but the goal is to build a portfolio of high-demand courses—the kind that draw more than 200 people to lecture halls on the campus, in Cambridge, Mass. MIT is investing “millions of dollars” in the project, said L. Rafael Reif, the provost, and the plan is to solicit more from donors and foundations.
Ten years ago, MIT galvanized the open-education movement by giving away free learning materials from 2,100 courses. But some universities are moving beyond publishing online syllabi and simple videos. They now provide virtual tutors and automated feedback through interactive projects like the Open Learning Initiative at Carnegie Mellon University and the free online computer-science courses at Stanford University. MIT’s new venture is a step in that direction.
If Stanford’s experience is any indication, the potential pool of participants could be vast. Back in November, roughly 94,000 students enrolled in Andrew Ng’s open course on machine learning there.
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