MIT Shakes up Higher Ed (again) with MITx

MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) created some waves at the end of 2011  in  Higher Education circles with the announcement of a new initiative – MITx, an expansion of MIT’s  Open Course Ware program.  MITx plans to offer credentials to any learner who demonstrates, through an assessment process that they have mastered the given content of a course offered FREE through MIT’s OpenCourseWare.  Disruptive? Yes – the timing couldn’t be better – just as Higher Ed approaches a crisis with rising costs for a degree and the pressure to show value, MIT suggests an attractive  alternative.

Image  First things first –  What is MIT OpenCourseWare?

MIT launched in 2002  OpenCourseWare,  a web based program  that offered the school’s educational content for all undergraduate and graduate level courses offered by the school – online and available to anyone.  Learners have access to all educational materials – streaming video lectures, syllabi, exams, notes etc.  What is missing is the interaction with classmates, feedback from professor, college credits, or certification of any kind.  However this doesn’t seem to bother the 1,000,000 visitors who go to the OpenCourseWare site each month.

What about MITx?

Fast forward to 2011,  MIT’s  Provost Rafeal Reif launches MITx, a research project in online teaching and learning.  There are two significant aspects of the program:

1) MIT will offer an open-source learning management platform (similar to Moodle) to any institution, ” [MIT will] operate … an open-source, scalable software infrastructure in order to make it continuously improving and readily available to other educational institutions.”

2) The program will “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.”

Both of these initiatives are significant undertakings, and could potentially offer tremendous value to students seeking higher education on a budget. Imagine getting a world-class education for free?

MITx Credentials will not bear the MIT name

It makes sense that MIT will administer this program as an extension of their school, thus bearing a different name.  According to the MITx common question page,  “online learners who demonstrate mastery of subjects could earn a certificate of completion, but any such credential would not be issued under the name MIT. Rather, MIT plans to create a not-for-profit body within the Institute that will offer certification for online learners of MIT coursework. That body will carry a distinct name to avoid confusion.”  This makes good sense, and it appears to be well thought out.

Implications

  • Online education will continue to grow, with accredited courses and programs being offered by even the elite universities.
  • The open source Learning management platform  (LMS) offered by MITx will influence availability, quality and price structure of learning management platforms. Competition will increase, benefiting educational institutions in general.
  • Higher Education institutions will need to examine their own models of online education offering.  Demonstrating value to the ‘customer’ will be a requirement for a successful education program in the near future.
  • Higher Education institutions that fail to provide a quality online product and show value, will be in jeopardy.
  • Students will become educated consumers and ‘shop’ for the best program to fit their needs at a price that doesn’t saddle them with huge debt.

I can’t wait to see the developments in Online Education for 2012! Hold on to your mice!🙂

Source: MIT News, What is MITx?,  http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2011/mitx-education-initiative-1219.html,  Retrieved January 4, 2011

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