Wednesday, December 28, 2011

M.I.T. Game-Changer: Free Online Education For All

M.I.T.'s Simmons Hall
This article has been inherited from Forbes Mag. The link to the original article goes HERE

For Wall Street Occupiers or other 
decriers of the “social injustice” of
college tuition, here’s a curveball bound
to scramble your worldview: a totally
free college education regardless of your
academic performance or background.
(M.I.T.) will announce on Monday that
they intend to launch an online learning
initiative called M.I.T.x,which will
offer the online teaching of M.I.T. coursesfree of charge to anyone in the world.

The program will not allow students to earn an M.I.T. degree. Instead, those 
who are able to exhibit a mastery of the subjects taught on the platform will
receive an official certificate of completion. The certificate will obviously not
carry the weight of a traditional M.I.T. diploma, but it will provide an incentive
to finish the online material. According to the New York Times, in order to prevent
confusion, the certificate will be a credential bearing the distinct name of a new 
not for-profit body that will be created within M.I.T.

The new online platform will look to build upon the decade-long success of the 
university’s original free online platform, OpenCourseWare (OCW), which has 
been used by over 100 million students and contains course material for roughly
2,100 classes. The new M.I.T.x online program will not compete with OCW in the
number of courses that it offers. However, the program will offer students a 
greater interactive experience.

Students using the program will be able to communicate with their peers through
student-to-student discussions, allowing them an opportunity to ask questions or
simply brainstorm with others, while also being able to access online laboratories 
and self-assessments. In the future, students and faculty will be able to control 
which classes will be available on the system based on their interests, creating a
personalized education setting.

M.I.T.x represents the next logical evolution in the mushrooming business of free
online education by giving students an interactive experience as opposed to a 
simple videotaped lecture. Academic Earth (picked by Time Magazine as one of
the 50 best websites of 2009) has cornered the market on free online education 
by making a smorgasbord of online course content – from prestigious universities
such as Stanford and Princeton – accessible and free to anyone in the world. 
Users on Academic Earth can watch lectures from some of the brightest minds our
universities have to offer from the comfort of their own computer screen. 
However, that is all they can do: watch. Khan Academy, another notable online
education site, offers a largely free interactive experience to its users through 
assessments and exercises, but it limits itself to K-12 education. By contrast, 
M.I.T.x will combine the interactivity of the Khan Academy with the collegiate focus 
of Academic Earth, while drawing primarily from M.I.T.’s advanced course material.

“M.I.T. has long believed that anyone in the world with the motivation and ability
to engage M.I.T. coursework should have the opportunity to attain the best M.I.T.
-based educational experience that Internet technology enables,” said M.I.T. 
President Susan Hockfield in the university’s press release.

According to the university, residential M.I.T. students can expect to use M.I.T.x
in a different way than online-only students. For instance, the program will be 
used to augment on-campus course work by expanding upon what students learn in
class (faculty and students will determine how to incorporate the program into 
their courses). The university intends to run the two programs simultaneously with
no reduction in OCW offerings.

According to the New York Times, access to the software will be free. However,
there will most likely be an “affordable” charge, not yet determined, for a
credential. The program will also save individuals from the rigors of the cutthroat
M.I.T. admissions process, as online-only students will not have to be enrolled in
the prestigious, yet expensive, university to access its online teaching resources.

Those chomping at the bit to dive into M.I.T.x will have to wait, as the university
doesn’t plan to launch a prototype of the platform until the spring of 2012. 
According to M.I.T. Provost L. Rafael Reif and Anant Agarwal, director of the 
Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab, the prototype might include only
one course, but it would quickly expand to include many more courses.

Once launched, M.I.T. officials expect the M.I.T.x platform to be a giant hit 
amongst other universities looking to create or expand upon their online course
materials.“Creating an open learning infrastructure will enable other communities
of developers to contribute to it, thereby making it self-sustaining,” said Agarwal
in the M.I.T. press release.

Whether M.I.T.x will directly threaten the margins at for-profit online universities,
such as the University of Phoenix, APUS, or DeVry remains to be seen. But as 
M.I.T.x starts to provide many of the salient virtues of for-profit online colleges,
such as a robust learning management systems and real-time virtual interaction, 
these publicly traded education companies might have to lower fees in order to 
compete with M.I.T.x’s compelling free price. In addition, the success of M.I.T.x, 
OCW, and Academic Earth may push dramatic technological innovation at for-profits, 
so that they can maintain a unique selling proposition versus their free competitors.
Moreover, as the rapidly growing number of what are termed “self educators” 
choose free college education, a cottage industry of social media support services 
might evolve to bring them together for free in-person study and help sessions.


Must be promoted more!
12:48 Pankaj Patel