MIT’s Open Courseware Opens New Options

Grafitti in kanji.

Class: Japanese Popular Culture; Photo credit: Grafitti in kanji, Sakuragi-cho, Yokohama, Japan, 2000. (Photo courtesy of Prof. Ian Condry.)

With rising tuition costs in the news of late, more universities are creating opportunities for alternative learning options. For the past ten years, MIT has offered a wonderful supplement to their courses called MIT Open Courseware. It’s a list of available coursework, classes that have been used in actual MIT classrooms and taught by MIT professors, for anyone to go online and learn. The subjects are amazingly diverse and most of the classes are complete. There are literally thousands of classes that any Joe on the street can take from MIT. The only current hitch is these classes do not have the benefit of other students to interact with, nor do they have professors at the ready for questions. The lectures are there, the notes and course materials are there, there are quizzes as well, but no one is there to grade your papers, and there is no diploma at the end of the rainbow.

At one point, when I was considering whether I wanted to add another $60,000 to my student loan debt, I constructed an entire degree program out of Open Courseware classes from MIT, University of Washington, and the UK’s Open University, among others. There are many prestigious schools offering open coursework classes. Creating your own degree program can be done, and in the near future it may be able to be done with a certificate to show for it.

MIT is in the works of creating what their university newspaper, The Tech, calls “MITx.” Open Courseware with a paid certificate at the end of the classes. The coursework would remain free, courses would possibly have interaction with other students, and they are working on a non-human grading system.  Students would then pay a modest fee for a certificate upon course mastery. The difficulty of the courses is still going to be MIT level, so prospective students will have to understand there are no certificate handouts here.

This is an amazing development in the world of available online free college courses. This will open up more options for creating a world that doesn’t live on student loan debt in order to get a good job. In some job markets, Bachelor’s degrees have about as much weight as a high school diploma. In a world where the option to gain a certificate from MITx is available, will this change the job market? The possibilities are inspiring!

MITx will start small, offering one class, but hopefully open the options to a growing population of online certificate seekers.

(The Tech)


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