Thursday, January 12, 2012

The end of the university as we know it?

MIT has already been putting its course materials online for anyone to access free of charge. Now they are going a step further.

"MIT today announced the launch of an online learning initiative internally called “MITx.” MITx will offer a portfolio of MIT courses through an online interactive learning platform that will:
  • organize and present course material to enable students to learn at their own pace
  • feature interactivity, online laboratories and student-to-student communication
  • allow for the individual assessment of any student’s work and allow students who demonstrate their mastery of subjects to earn a certificate of completion awarded by MITx
  • operate on an open-source, scalable software infrastructure in order to make it continuously improving and readily available to other educational institutions.
MIT expects that this learning platform will enhance the educational experience of its on-campus students, offering them online tools that supplement and enrich their classroom and laboratory experiences. MIT also expects that MITx will eventually host a virtual community of millions of learners around the world.

There are a lot of questions that come to mind. Will students be assessed according to the same standards as conventional MIT students? If someone accumulates sufficient certificates of completion will they be entitled to an MITx degree? What will happen if employers and graduate school  start accepting MITx certificates as equivalent to standard academic credentials? If so, will MIT be able to resist the temptation to start charging hefty fees for a certificate.

MIT may, perhaps unwittingly,  have started a process that will end with universities becoming something very different.

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