Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), one of the world's top-rated universities, has announced free courses which can be studied and assessed completely online. An electronics course, beginning in March, will be the first prototype of the online project, known as . The interactive course is designed to be fully automated, with successful students receiving a certificate. MIT says it wants MITx to “shatter barriers to education” .
MITx represents a significant step forward in the use of technology to deliver higher education. The proposal is unusual in that it is inviting students anywhere in the world, without charge or prior entrance requirements, to study for a certificate carrying the MIT brand. Study materials and the awarding of grades are all provided online.
The 6.002x: Circuits and Electronics course, based on the campus-based course of the same name, is not a watered-down version of the campus course or any less intense, said a university spokesman. The main difference is that the MITx version has been designed for online students, with a virtual laboratory, e-textbooks, online discussions and videos that are the equivalent of a lecture. It is expected to take 10 hours per week and will run until June.
Anant Agarwal, director of MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, who will be one of the course teachers, says it has been “designed to try to keep it engaging”.
“There are interactive exercises to see if they’ve understood,” said Professor Agarwal. Although there are no formal entry requirements, he says students will need to have a knowledge of maths and science.
At this prototype stage, the online assessment will depend on an “honour code” in which home students will commit to honest behaviour. But in future, the university says, there will be mechanisms for checking identity and verifying work.
After the first electronics course, it is expected that the university will roll out courses in areas such as biology, maths and physics. But the open access project will also have to address some of the questions around the relationship between traditional campus degrees and online courses – particularly when students at top US universities are paying fees in excess of $50,000 (£31,670) per year.
MIT is making a distinction between the certificate on offer for online students and the fully-fledged degree available to campus-based students. It will also make the MITx material available for its own students.
Source: BBC News
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