Wednesday, April 11, 2012

mitX aims to enhance education

MIT | Speaking to students in Simmons Hall on Wednesday evening, Provost L. Rafael Reif and Chancellor Eric Grimson explained how MITx — the Institute’s new initiative for online learning — could not only bring aspects of MIT’s education to the world at large, but also enhance and enrich the educational experience of students on campus.

“Our goal is to use this as a platform to strengthen the residential student experience,” Grimson said. The informal meeting was one of a series of sessions with undergraduates and graduate students to explain MITx, as well as to gather input and suggestions on “how you would imagine using this, and what you would like to see,” he said.

The MITx concept, Reif explained, grew out of a series of meetings over the last five years in which faculty, administrators and student representatives explored “ways we could use technology to enhance what we do on campus.”

MITx’s pilot class is now under way: 6.002x, Introduction to Circuits and Electronics. So far, more than 120,000 people worldwide have signed up for the course, which is now about halfway through its semester, Grimson said. At least 20,000 of those students have been actively keeping up with the course’s lectures, exercises and online tests.

For MIT’s own students, Reif said, materials developed for MITx classes will add an extra dimension to their on-campus experience. In some cases, he said, MITx might replace existing lecture components with online versions students could watch at their own pace, repeating segments if necessary to make sure they understand. Instead of a classroom experience defined by passive listening, MIT students might actually “experience increased face-to-face interactions” with each other and with instructors, Reif said.

When MIT students used online lectures and exercises, instructors would also have access to data about which sections students sailed through and which were more challenging. When students got to recitation sections, teaching assistants would have a clearer sense of which topics they needed to focus on, Grimson said.

MITx itself is an experiment, Reif said, and will be closely monitored so that course materials and the interactive experience can be improved as needed. The software platform developed for MITx is open-source and will eventually be released to the public: Beneficial modifications made or suggested by anyone around the world will be incorporated into the platform at any time.

“We believe this is the future,” Reif said of interactive online education as a supplement to campus learning. The software platform will be offered to other institutions for use in their classes — providing an alternative to a trend toward online educational materials developed by for-profit companies, he added. Fist tap Dale.


Ed Dunn said...

My sista from Japan introduced me to the Open Course Ware at MIT and I've been studying economic and micro-financing for a personal project I'm taking on. Here is the first course I already completed:

Pentland, Alex. MAS.666 Developmental Entrepreneurship, Fall 2003. (Massachusetts Institute of Technology: MIT OpenCourseWare), (Accessed 11 Apr, 2012). License: Creative Commons BY-NC-SA

The good thing is, I'm taking these courses at MIT and don't have to pay back a student loan like these other MIT grads!!!

CNu said...

Qualitatively, did you find it applied, practical, and up-to-date, or, was it still plainly academic?

Ed Dunn said...

 Yes - I found the courses I've studied highly insightful and supplemental to what I'm learning. Most people are not data gatherers but if they were, I would recommend looking at some of the course material and extract valuable data points.

arnach said...