Online Courses with MITx: MIT’s Internet Classroom Initiative

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Interested in taking online courses at MIT? The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, commonly known as MIT, has announced a new initiative to couple online learning with a research project to improve Internet-based classrooms. MITx is something of a next-gen OpenCourseWare, an MIT online-learning project currently in its 10th year.

Will online courses result in empty classrooms? Probably not – many students still prefer face-to-face classes. Image by igoghost

Online College Degrees? MITx vs. OpenCourseWare

Neither MITx, nor MIT’s existing online learning program, OpenCourseWare, offers an actual college degree, so what’s the real difference between MITx and OCW?

OpenCourseWare has been providing students around the world access to MIT course materials for over 10 years, but does not provide feedback, interaction, or any actual involvement in a class. OCW simply provides the course information, giving students the opportunity to follow along, conduct research, and inform themselves.

MITx, on the other hand, although it allows students to work at their own pace like OCW, also provides for a more interactive environment. The courses are projected to include online labs, interactive exercises, student-to-student communications, feedback and other tools to improve the learning environment. Other differences include:

  • MITx will initially offer a limited number of courses, while OCW offers course materials for over 2,000 MIT courses.
  • While courses are free, MITx will offer students a fee-based credential program, while OCW offers no credential for course completion.

Online college degrees are becoming more popular. Image credits: brainloc/sqback

College Online: Are Internet Classrooms Effective?

Just as with any other method of learning, online college classes can be effective or ineffective, depending on a number of factors. Student learning style, motivation and interest level, and the organization and class setup contribute greatly to the potential success or failure of an online learning program for each individual student. According to the Sloan Consortium, “Academic leaders believe that the level of student satisfaction is equivalent for online and face-to-face courses,” and both the availability of online courses and student participation rates in Internet-based learning programs are up in 2011. As with any other online course, prospective students should evaluate their learning styles and abilities before committing to a course of study.

 

Benefits of MITx’s Online Courses

MITx offers a combination of availability, a major benefit of any online distance-learning program, with a premier yet no-cost education. In other words, you don’t have to apply to MIT to get an MIT education. Although the completion of MITx courses  may not provide the same resumé benefits as a diploma from the prestigious college, the knowledge gained could be extremely valuable.

According to MIT President Susan Hockfield, as quoted in the school’s MITx press release, “MIT has long believed that anyone in the world with the motivation and ability to engage MIT coursework should have the opportunity to attain the best MIT-based educational experience that Internet technology enables. OpenCourseWare’s great success signals high demand for MIT’s course content and propels us to advance beyond making content available. MIT now aspires to develop new approaches to online teaching.

Resources:

MIT. OpenCourseWareMITx Frequently Asked Questions. Accessed December 27, 2011.

MIT News. MIT launches online learning initiative. December 19, 2011. Accessed December 27, 2011.

Seaman, J. Ph.D. Online Learning Trends in Private-Sector Colleges and Universities. (2011). Pearson Learning Solutions. Accessed December 27, 2011.

Sloan Consortium. Going the Distance: Online Education in the United States, 2011. (2011).

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