MITnews, April 6:
MITx’s pilot class is now under way: 6.002x, Introduction to Circuits and Electronics. So far, more than 120,000 people worldwide have signed up for the course, which is now about halfway through its semester, Grimson said. At least 20,000 of those students have been actively keeping up with the course’s lectures, exercises and online tests.
InsideHigherEd, April 6:
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology ended 2011 with a grand announcement: It would broadcast massive, open online courses — equal in rigor to its on-campus offerings — to tens of thousands of non-enrolled, non-paying learners around the world. Eventually, the university would offer these students a pathway to some sort of credential. The project, called MITx, was heralded as a major step toward using technology to refigure the economics of higher education. Now comes the hard part: actually pulling it off.
MIT Faculty Newsletter:
I believe that education and training are different. To me, training is an essential commodity that will certainly be outsourced to digital systems and be dramatically improved in the process. Education is much more subtle and complex and is likely to be accomplished through mentorship or apprentice-like interactions between a learner and an expert.
In December, MIT announced the bold extension of OpenCourseWare (OCW) into MITx. OCW has delivered online course materials for free, and MITx aims to provide an environment for free online learning. A major question about the potential impact of MITx is this: If MITx is wildly successful, what is the future of the residential education experience that has been our mode of teaching for MIT’s entire history? If students can master course materials online for free (or for a modest “credentialing” fee), what incentives would there be for anyone to invest in an expensive residential college education? In short, what will be the “added value” of a residential education that will justify a residential student’s financial investment?
MITx will not, after all, deliver the benefits of human-to-human interaction via late night talks, camaraderie-developing activities, accidental conversations, in-the-office critiques, UROPs, probing debates, intellectual wrestling, and other on-site elements of a university education in general and an MIT education in particular.
Not yet anyway. And too bad we have no way of measuring the benefits of all those resident experiences other than anecdotally from our own experiences or the testimonies of others.
The future is murky, and change may happen fast: The 50-minute lecture may turn obsolete overnight, yielding to 12-minute video chunks; we may lead, or we may fall behind; we may resist, or we may embrace; but one thing is clear, we better not ignore. No one has a crystal ball good enough to give us much of a clue about what actually will happen, but we all need help make it happen right and make it happen here, because it is the kind of challenge we like and have an obligation to take on. The Provost has lit a match. It is up to all of us to catch fire, to participate, to innovate, to promote, to argue, and to help MIT manage its way through a time that will be partly exciting, partly scary, but certainly defining.