The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has been a leader in providing open-access educational materials since 2002 through its OpenCourseWare project. It provides free online access to nearly all course materials from MIT’s undergraduate and graduate courses. Currently, the program includes about 2,100 courses and it has been used by more than 100 million people. The new MITx initiative is seen as the next step in the evolution of the OpenCourseWare endeavor.
MIT recently launched an online learning initiative, internally labeled MITx, in order to enhance the educational experience of students on the MIT campus and around the world. Pioneered by MIT Provost L. Rafael Reif for a vision of high-quality, affordable, and accessible education, the initiative is aimed at achieving two goals. The first is to develop an open-source online learning infrastructure with interactive learning tools. The second goal is to provide a limited portfolio of MIT courses online that anyone could access for free with the possibility of receiving a non-MIT certification.
The open-source learning platform from the MITx initiative is expected to provide several key features:
- Designed to organize and present course materials in a way that allows students to learn at their own pace and receive an individual assessment of their work
- Encourage interactivity, online laboratories, and student-to-student communications.
- Operate as free open-source software, allowing any educational institution to customize and participate in the continuous improvement of the scalable software infrastructure
MIT has not yet publicly announced which courses will be freely available in the MITx program, but it has been confirmed that if a person can demonstrate mastery of the MITx course materials, then they can receive a certification on the subject for a small processing fee. However, in order to not cause any confusion between online and residential students, the certification will not bear the MIT brand name. Instead, the university is planning to create a non-for-profit body within MIT that can issue these certifications.
A pilot-test is currently underway during the spring 2012 semester and when the learning infrastructure of MITx is in a stable form, MIT will release the open-source software to allow other universities and individuals to improve and add features to the technology.