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MIT's Online Education Prototype Opens For Enrollment

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the now-they-face-the-wrath-of-khan dept.

Education 42

OldHawk777 writes with news that MITx, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's online learning initiative, has opened free enrollment for its first course: 6.002x: Circuits and Electronics. "Modeled after MIT’s 6.002 — an introductory course for undergraduate students in MIT’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) — 6.002x will introduce engineering in the context of the lumped circuit abstraction, helping students make the transition from physics to the fields of electrical engineering and computer science. ... 'We are very excited to begin MITx with this prototype class,' says MIT Provost L. Rafael Reif. 'We will use this prototype course to optimize the tools we have built by soliciting and acting on feedback from learners.' To access the course, registered students will log in at mitx.mit.edu, where they will find a course schedule, an e-textbook for the course, and a discussion board. Each week, students will watch video lectures and demonstrations, work with practice exercises, complete homework assignments, and participate in an online interactive lab specifically designed to replicate its real-world counterpart. Students will also take exams and be able to check their grades as they progress in the course. Overall, students can expect to spend approximately 10 hours each week on the course."

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Yes! (1)

Cyphase (907627) | more than 2 years ago | (#39026557)

Hooray for free online education! *goes to OCW to refresh prereqs*

wrong address (2, Funny)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 2 years ago | (#39026581)

For a FREE education from MIT, go to prep.ai.mit.edu [mit.edu] .

Can I ... (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39026683)

... still do a keg stand at home?

Does stealing my neighbor's dog count for stealing the rival mascot?

cool (1)

andolyne (1342935) | more than 2 years ago | (#39026787)

wow really interesting, i'm gonna check it out.

140 hrs in 14 weeks... (2)

killfixx (148785) | more than 2 years ago | (#39026865)

Guess it's time to see if I can hang...

You .FAIL it!=! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39027007)

today. It'5 about Insisted that

good stuff (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39027021)

this is really an excellent idea and i want to thank the good folks at MIT for their effort. Should be great to see how this pans out. I think this will beat the numbers put up by the prof at berkeley.

A brave new world (5, Interesting)

EmperorOfCanada (1332175) | more than 2 years ago | (#39027049)

I have been enjoying the Stanford CompSci stuff. It lacks polish but it is great. I love the teaching company stuff as well. Online lectures are still all a bit of a dogs breakfast but they can only get better and better. But at some point I could see the free online product being better than that offered by most Podunk universities. There will always be gaps such as doing a chemistry lab but at some point soon online free will be better than the worst North American institutions.
I have four questions:
These online courses in many cases are certainly better lectures than those given by 99% of local lecturers so when will local courses use this resource?
When will you be able to get a usable certificate from these places?
And when will employers begin recognizing them?
And what happens to the whole going to University experience if you sit in front of a computer for 4 years? This last leads me to believe that the most likely outcome will be a blending of bricks, mortar, and internet.

And a side point. This doesn't just apply to University. The Teaching company has HS level courses that blow anything I took completely out of the water.

Re:A brave new world...Indeed (4, Insightful)

spopepro (1302967) | more than 2 years ago | (#39027397)

It's funny you chose that title, as Huxley would very much disapprove of what is going on here. Thousands of students planted in front of machines getting the knowledge they need placed inside of them... which is admittedly an exaggeration for effect, but one that I believe in.

I took Thurn and Norvig's into to AI class and was pretty thoroughly disappointed. But I am also disappointed in most of what went on in my undergraduate school, and equally disappointed with myself when I was yapping in front of calculus students at the UC when I was lecturing there. The problem is that lecturing is really crappy for actually learning anything. However, it's the easiest thing to do, and scales remarkably well. Furthermore, adult learners love it. Especially those who have already learned something about the subject. The process usually goes: student learns something marginally well, hears a concise explanation/lecture on the subject later, things connect and click into place, and then the learner says "well why the hell didn't they just do that in the first place?!?". The answer is that it wouldn't have worked in the first place. It works now because of the scaffolding afforded by your earlier education (re your HS courses being blown out of the water).

It was best said at a paper presentation I went to recently that "we need to get out of this mode of believing that if we can just find someone to explain things better than anyone else then we can record it, package it, and solve all of our educational problems." Students need to do, experience, build knowledge and skills. Sure, lecture can be a part of it, but I think most people find that exercises, study groups (especially the more collaborative ones), labs and other more constructivistic experiences are what made the content from lectures stick. So the answer isn't in the content, but rather the glue that does the blending you speak of above.

Re:A brave new world...Indeed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39027875)

If you can use pre-recorded lectures, you can spend the class time as tutorials in the British sense - the experts guiding the students through their difficulties.

Re:A brave new world...Indeed (1)

Half-pint HAL (718102) | more than 2 years ago | (#39030487)

How many students in the UK do any prep for tutorials? I seem to recall doing most of mine on the bus to uni or sitting in the hall between lectures. One of the unsung benefits of the lecture is the dedicated timetable. You can't put it off till later, and you give it (almost) your full attention (when you're not writing stuff on the desks).

Re:A brave new world...Indeed (1)

Archibald Buttle (536586) | more than 2 years ago | (#39030405)

It's funny you chose that title, as Huxley would very much disapprove of what is going on here.

Meh - Huxley stole the line from Shakespeare... I'm not quite so sure that he'd have disapproved. ;-)

Re:A brave new world...Indeed (1)

Half-pint HAL (718102) | more than 2 years ago | (#39030475)

I took Thurn and Norvig's into to AI class and was pretty thoroughly disappointed. But I am also disappointed in most of what went on in my undergraduate school, and equally disappointed with myself when I was yapping in front of calculus students at the UC when I was lecturing there. The problem is that lecturing is really crappy for actually learning anything. However, it's the easiest thing to do, and scales remarkably well. Furthermore, adult learners love it. Especially those who have already learned something about the subject. The process usually goes: student learns something marginally well, hears a concise explanation/lecture on the subject later, things connect and click into place, and then the learner says "well why the hell didn't they just do that in the first place?!?". The answer is that it wouldn't have worked in the first place. It works now because of the scaffolding afforded by your earlier education (re your HS courses being blown out of the water).

I can't agree with that. I've done a heck of a lot of time as an undergrad, through various media.

I studied computing full time at one of Scotland's top unis. I studied two-and-a-half language degrees with the Open University of the UK -- one of the oldest and best-respected distance learning establishments in existence. I'm now doing mixed-mode study with one of Scotland's newest universities, the UHI.

I've studied by lecture, by book, by TV documentary, and by online text.

The best stuff I ever studied was book-and-TV, but that doesn't really count, because that was an English language course, and so the course designers really knew about how to connect with an audience. In general, I find lectures are better than books, and books are better than online. The reason for this is the density of the text. If you transcribed a good lecture, it would look really messy, and more than a little patronising, because a good lecturer talks around a subject to give you a feel for what's going on before sticking a name or a formula on it. He'll ask lots of rhetorical questions to start your brain contemplating the issues. He'll make passing reference to related concepts that you've previously encountered that are related to the topic under discussion. And you won't even realise that he's done it. What you remember after a good lecture is the target knowledge, not the teaching method.

But when the lecturer sits down to write a book, he focuses on the target knowledge -- there is very little done to prepare your mind for the new knowledge. This isn't just laziness, it's the nature of the medium -- you read faster than he lectures. The pauses, the gaps, the little bits of thinking time -- you can't put them down on paper.

Shift to online learning, and the target-knowledge focus is even tighter. Effectively you get a series of condensed lecture notes, but without the lecture before. Lecture notes only serve to remind you of what was said, not to say it to you. So the online courses are very difficult to learn from, and most of the "elearning" I've taken both in education and in the workplace is simply rote memorisation of a bunch of definitions, often being tested with "Goldilocks" type questions -- three answers: one "too hot", one "too cold", one "just right". Even if they don't use Goldilocks questions, your improvement is measured by answering the same questions again, which means that you don't have to learn why you were wrong, just that you were wrong and to give the correct answer next time.

Re:A brave new world...Indeed (1)

therealkevinkretz (1585825) | more than 2 years ago | (#39031773)

Important distinction: It differs from Huxley's scary envisioning because those (viewing? using? taking?) the material have chosen to. Were they to become homogenizing, brainwashing, lowest-common-denominator, they'd choose something else.

Re:A brave new world...Indeed (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 2 years ago | (#39032067)

Are you kidding me? I hated re-learning what I already knew in lectures. The only ones I enjoyed were where there was actual new stuff.. which was usually in the second half of a semester, when I'd already stopped attending the lectures and instead just read the online lecture notes.

I've learned way more just reading books, magazines and web pages than I ever did at University.

All these free online courses recently have been first year material, ie very broad and not very deep at all. You'd be better off just finding the textbook in a library and spend an afternoon reading the chapters you're interested in.

Re:A brave new world (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39027427)

teach 12 has been amazing for me. I lost my love of learning through high school. But those courses reshowed me that there can be enjoyment I'm learning. So now at 30 I've gone to university to take physics.

Re:A brave new world (2)

Yoda222 (943886) | more than 2 years ago | (#39028305)

I think it's a bad idea to have only one source of education for everyone. Of course, if you have a lot of different sources, some people will have better classes than other. But the progress in science/technology/whatever are made when people discuss together and when each has its own point of view. I think that if everyone gets the same classes, it will slow down innovations, because these people will think "in the same way".

Re:A brave new world (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39029205)

I imagine that you will never be able to get a usable certificate from taking free courses.

That would bust the college bubble, and colleges aren't eager to kill the golden goose.

Free courses are nice for people who like to learn and people who want to brush up on skills, but if you're trying to get a job, good luck getting past HR without a degree.

Now do the same thing for primary schools.. (1)

v4vijayakumar (925568) | more than 2 years ago | (#39027101)

Education should be free. and also medicine.

Re:Now do the same thing for primary schools.. (3, Insightful)

PerfectionLost (1004287) | more than 2 years ago | (#39027177)

Better yet, YOU should make it free. It's easy to demand things from other people, but very difficult to share what you know.

Re:Now do the same thing for primary schools.. (2, Insightful)

VortexCortex (1117377) | more than 2 years ago | (#39028447)

Better yet, YOU should make it free. It's easy to demand things from other people, but very difficult to share what you know.

Hmm. Well, that's what I always do: Share what I know. In fact, the way I learn is to create 'How To' guides for how to do X. In the process of creating the guide I've learned it, or vise versa. Think of it as working around the material's copyrights and artificial obsolescence by creating my own unique texts. In fact, in the past people have purchased my "notes" because they were better than what the textbook and professor offered in the way of understandable explanations; I've also been a tutor both for free and for profit. I practically taught my HS Calculus class... (teacher had a heavy accent and wouldn't repeat anything). It's funny, but I never asked for monetary compensation for my time, folks just insist. We call this "donations" now...

I also make and use Free Software. In my spare spare time (not a typo), when I'm not sharing what I know, I've been going back over some of my notes and creating a tutorial: 'Zero to Hero - learn programming & geometry from the ground up' through creating a series of games -- From the 'Playing the Odds' (Higher / Lower, number-lines, etc ) thru Pung, Tetras, Brokeout, Poc-mon, Galaca, Maria, Masteroids (trig), and so on -- which I plan to share freely. I've always found math easier when embodied in working code examples; What better motivator for kids of all ages than games? In my experience, learning is more readily retained and enjoyable when the knowledge is reinforced through application than quickly crammed and forgotten when tested.

Also, I can still call up the GWBASIC programs & tutorials from when I taught myself linear equations & trig -- My school text books? Oh, why they're no where to be found, had to return them -- probably in a land fill somewhere now, but I've taught my nephew linear equations with my example programs (after converting them to JavaScript) far faster and easier than his text book was doing. He hated mathematics, now he can't just can't wait for a tutor session, and we're several chapters ahead of his class. Who knew making your own graphing calculator and extending it would be so much more fun and educational than just using one?

It's only difficult to share if you've got an aversion to sharing. It's so hard for me not to share I find myself helping people constantly. I just shared an afternoon (and some of my fresh-home-made pizza) with my 75 year old neighbour and taught him some more about Debian.

Much like the FUD about Linux usability (hey gramps can do it), FUD about sharing is unfounded as well.

That said, the problem with getting open learning resources in primary schools is that there are some folks with vested interests in keeping the proprietary text book market afloat... If only copyright didn't last so damn long. Compare a Math or English text book from the 1950's (~60 years ago) to today's primary schools' books, and it's clear we've really lowered the bar. It would be better to use public domain works for education IMHO, if only congress and Mega Media Corps hadn't effectively killed the public domain... Kids today aren't even using the latter half of their text books (here in Texas) thanks to the months of standardised testing "preparation" the kids endure -- The schools earn money the better the kids score. The crappy schools get less funding, and more crappy, then close. o_O The standardised tests cover bullshit they should already know from the previous years in every case I've seen.

I think a free and open education platform is exactly what we need, but bet your bottom dollar the established education system will want a cut -- Licensed testing, etc. That's fine! So long as the kids aren't taken away from their studies for months to cram for a test covering knowledge they should already know.

wish they'd finish OpenCourseWare first (2)

PJ6 (1151747) | more than 2 years ago | (#39027159)

Just the other day I got stuck on a particularly woolly Project Euler problem and cruised on by http://ocw.mit.edu/courses/ [mit.edu] to finally learn 6.042/18.062. I was actually prepared to learn a whole course worth of material, was psyched I'd found the motivation, only to have cold water poured on me when I discovered that the problem set solutions aren't posted. Looked around at other courses and found that this is not uncommon.

What's the point of this MITx with only one course? Why don't they get serious with what they started with OpenCourseWare first? I'd like to see them go all-in for most of course 6, 8, and 18.

Re:wish they'd finish OpenCourseWare first (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39027533)

If you are actually prepared to learn a whole course, you would actually be prepared to spend 12 hours on a problem set. Seriously. How long did you bash your head against your desk before you tried looking for the solutions?

Re:wish they'd finish OpenCourseWare first (1)

PJ6 (1151747) | more than 2 years ago | (#39027751)

Anonymous coward is an anonymous coward.

> How long did you bash your head against your desk before you tried looking for the solutions?

In case you're not deliberately trolling - I didn't spend ANY time on those problem sets.

> If you are actually prepared to learn a whole course, you would actually be prepared to spend 12 hours on a problem set.

Come on, combinatorics? You really think I'd be willing to do that without knowing that I could verify my work when I was done?

Without the solutions my time would be more productively spent attempting to apply the lecture notes directly to the problem I'm working on, or a subset thereof.

By the way, when I was at MIT, I *never* spent 12 hours on a problem set. Except for the labs, most of the time, even 3 hours was pushing it.

Re:wish they'd finish OpenCourseWare first (1)

Galestar (1473827) | more than 2 years ago | (#39027763)

What's the point of this MITx with only one course? Why don't they get serious with what they started with OpenCourseWare first?

Its probably better that they have a pilot course first to iron out the bugs rather than try to do 100 courses all at the beginning.
I'm sure we will see more courses coming in the future.

Re:wish they'd finish OpenCourseWare first (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39029929)

Most universities will let you browse module pages (the ones for current students) and plenty of lecturers host their teaching material themselves (publicly). The difference is that MIT has, misleadingly, packaged it as free courseware.

Really all they've done is look at any module in the entire catalogue that has some publicly available information, even if it's just an exam paper, and class it as an online course.

Re:wish they'd finish OpenCourseWare first (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39032769)

Current MIT course 6 student here. MIT does plan to expand MITx to other classes/courses, but it's an entirely new system they're still trying to figure out. MIT is actually offering 6.002x to some students this semester for credit for the regular 6.002 class. This is our second week of class, so the people running it have given themselves roughly 1 month to iron out any bugs in the brand new online interface and course materials.

I'm not taking it, but I suspect it may also include something like iLab, which lets students control real life (expensive) lab equipment through a web interface to work on labs for class.

Basic requirements...? (1)

gimmebeer (1648629) | more than 2 years ago | (#39028031)

"You must know basic calculus and linear algebra and have some background in differential equations." Stupid math... someone point me to a refresher....

Re:Basic requirements...? (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39028133)

Khan Academy. [khanacademy.org]

Re:Basic requirements...? (1)

Mr. Shotgun (832121) | more than 2 years ago | (#39029831)

What the AC said, Khan baby, Khan
http://www.khanacademy.org/ [khanacademy.org]

6.002x is not an MIT course (1)

snsh (968808) | more than 2 years ago | (#39028377)

6.002x is an MIT subject. VI is an MIT course.

MIT (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39028541)

What is this crap? You'd think they'd have some real coursework, like Race Realism 101: the folly of spending a dollar on a nigger.

Useless; for shame, MIT -- for shame.

And just so I don't get moderated down for my substantive comment, I'll add a MIT joke using a unit of measurement based off of the length of their founder: you can trust a nigger about as far as you can throw one, which is to say, ~1/4 moot.

impact on admissions (2)

schlachter (862210) | more than 2 years ago | (#39029389)

Will be interesting to see how this affects admissions...as High Schoolers will likely be trying to take courses in advance of their application to MIT (or other schools for that matter) and will then reference these courses and the grades they received in their application.

Hey, maybe it's a better admission criterium than GPA or SAT?

Re:impact on admissions (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39030615)

Will be interesting to see how this affects admissions...as High Schoolers will likely be

... completely uninterested in this. Here are the course requirements:

"Requirements

In order to succeed in this course, you must have taken an AP level physics course in electricity and magnetism. You must know basic calculus and linear algebra and have some background in differential equations. Since more advanced mathematics will not show up until the second half of the course, the first half of the course will include an optional remedial differential equations component for those who need it.

Good luck finding a physics program in today's high schools, even in the AP track, which offers that in 11th or 12th grade. I graduated in the early 90's, and my high school was one of about a dozen which even offered an advanced physics course; there are so few that you can't even find textbooks any more. The remaining handful of instructors use a combination of college texts and material they have to create on their own.

Look around the country. Where there used to be several full classes of "Honors" kids taking college-level math and science, you are lucky to find one under-full class today. Want to get a jump start on your medical degree? Good fucking luck on finding a Latin course, and when you do it's probably Catholic Latin and not actual Latin.

Latin is obsolete... (1)

slew (2918) | more than 2 years ago | (#39037171)

For example, I don't even see latin mentioned in any of these...

http://hms.harvard.edu/admissions/default.asp?page=requirements [harvard.edu]

http://www.dartmouth.edu/~dcal/documents/TSS_NEJM_reading [dartmouth.edu]

http://www.hhmi.org/grants/pdf/08-209_AAMC-HHMI_report.pdf [hhmi.org]

You might impress a stogy old prof on an admissions committee with a latin class on your course transcript, but I doubt it will help you get a jump start on your medical degree more than learning conversational skills in a non-dead foreign language in preparation for patient care in our now increasingly multicultural society.

Apologies to Dr Sheldon Cooper of course, advanced biology courses are probably a better investment of time if one is aiming towards a jump start on a medical degree ;^) Physics, although important, hasn't changed much in it's application to medicine (other than perhaps radiology), but being on top of genetics and cell biology is becoming increasingly important. Getting the basics down early allow time to learn all the new stuff that is coming down the pipe.

Re:impact on admissions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39037925)

There will be some that can participate, and that is enough. What we need is online AP physics with proctored testing and credentialed certificates, not to put down the MITx effort.

Wave of the Future .... (1)

Austin Ruhoff (2573885) | more than 2 years ago | (#39029869)

This is starting slow - but, these online courses will be the next "big" thing - simply because they are so much more affordable than traditional college courses! The question is -- how does a college verify the person taking the tests?? Will be fun to watch this develop!

If I get a certificate with the Logo MIT on it, I (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39031987)

If I get a certificate with the Logo MIT on it, I am in!

Credit Conversion? Free Masters/Doctorate? (1)

killfixx (148785) | more than 2 years ago | (#39033381)

It'd be interesting to see if a real degree could be acquired using nothing but the free courses being offered at various universities. So long as they all take each others credits it shouldn't be an issue.

Maybe not a FREE masters or doctorate, but, possibly, a significantly reduced cost. You'd only need to grab some humanities to "round out" your education.

I would love that! :)

Pre-Requisites (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39034873)

In order to succeed in this course, you must have taken an AP level physics course in electricity and magnetism. You must know basic calculus and linear algebra and have some background in differential equations. Since more advanced mathematics will not show up until the second half of the course, the first half of the course will include an optional remedial differential equations component for those who need it.

HowTo Grow and Survive Change (1)

OldHawk777 (19923) | more than 2 years ago | (#39039429)

Many universities like MIT, Stanford, Harvard, Yale ... have over the past decade been developing and researching fresh learning architectures related to evolving demographics of present, future, global, and lifetime learners. The brick and mortar, and legacy rote-pedagogy centric models are limited by culture-bias, geography, and economics.

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