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Saturday, January 07, 2012

MITx: Revolutionizing Online Education by Marina Salsbury

Today I have Marina Salsbury as guest blogger. Please be sure to check out her unique guest post. Guest posts are always welcome, please contact me

MIT is planning on offering a pilot program, which enhances the features of the already 10 year-old OpenCourseWare (OCW) online learning site. Beginning in the spring of 2012, the project features a prototype class, where upon completion; individuals have the opportunity of obtaining certification. Off-campus students have free access to university online programs, which also aid in the learning experience of university-enrolled individuals.

According to a December 2011 newsletter, (MIT launches online learning initiative - MIT News Office) a blog posted by the MIT news office declared an upgrade to the already popular OCW online software leaning program. Since students are increasingly enhancing their classroom education with online resources that go beyond learning traditional formulas and techniques (such as business-minded students could use MBA Online to gain real-world knowledge of business trends), MITx plans to offer free online classes with advanced interactive features, allowing students to interact by answering questions, sharing ideas and having student-to-student feedback. The self-paced learning system will additionally enable students to take a comprehensive test. Successfully passing the examination entitles students to a certificate of completion. Students taking online MITx classes do not acquire a degree. The university also has not determined whether certification will count toward degree requirements if students later enroll on-campus.

Comparable to the OCW learning center, MITx does not require registration or educational prerequisites before allowing students access to the software. While the university will initially offer one class in the new program, the hope is that the institution will induct more and more of the current online classes into MITx.

There are no charges involved in using the program, but students must submit a moderate fee if desiring certification. Testing fees for the new program are not yet available. The method of testing the university plans to use has also not been disclosed. Certificates will not be awarded by MIT itself, but instead by another governing body located in the facility.

The current OCW program offers over 2,000 courses in 26 fields of undergraduate and graduate study. Each online class features the same lectures and demonstrations offered to campus students. Various courses include online textbooks, a course syllabus, lecture notes and suggested reading material. Unlike “watch only’ programs offered at other universities, or those restricted to K-12 students, OCW, and the future MITx, offer a means of gauging the online learning experience. Present OCW courses offer varied assignments and subject material quizzes.

OCW not only enhances resources for on-campus students, but millions of students around the world have used the program. The university also plans on making MITx available to non-campus students and other learning institutions. The OCW and MITx programs provides all off-campus students the opportunity for obtaining quality higher education. Enrollment limitations, the expense of attending college, and physical location of students, often inhibit many individuals from acquiring an education beyond high school. The ability to attend free classes online through the OCW and MITx programs eliminates financial, geographical and other barriers.

Many applaud the efforts of MIT and other online educators for offering a cost-effective means of gaining an education that is also environmentally friendly.

Some professional educators, however, question the possible certification procedures used for MITx. Robert Talbert, Michigan university professor, ponders the legitimacy of certification and the possibility of deception. Some employers have already voiced acceptance of prospective employees and MITx certificates because of the prestige associated with the name of the university.

Questions and comments can be sent to: Marina Salsbury

Many thanks to Marina.
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