This week the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) announced an online learning initiative that will make many graded courses available online for free. The program is called “MITx” and consists of a set of specially designed web-based courses that are available to anyone free-of-charge.
Those who take the course and earn a passing grade, may pay a small fee and receive an MITx certificate of completion for their work. The course will be taught by MIT professors although MIT is exploring software developments that will allow homework and exams, even written essays, to be graded via computer
This good-will initiative is intended to change the way we think about the availability and delivery of high quality education. It is likely to appeal to knowledge seekers, retired or unemployed persons, or anyone seeking to shore up their resume via education and training.
For Faculty and Students at the University of the District of Columbia, this initiative also provides access to free resources that may support and extend local learning initiatives. For example, group projects may be organized around learners enrolled in a free version of an MIT course. Faculty may also have the opportunity to interface with colleagues in various fields of interest.
At the end of the day, this innovative model provides a bold and provocative path for distance education. MITx is expected to go live in the Spring of 2012 with an experimental prototype version. They also intend to release an open-source version of their open learning software to support similar developments at other colleges and universities. You can sign up for updates about this initiative by contacting the MIT news office: http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/.