Join 3,433 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Ivy Level Education-with no debt
December 29, 2011 12:11 PM   Subscribe

MIT today announced the launch of an online learning initiative internally called “MITx.” Think you can hack it at MIT? If so, the world-renowned university is willing to give you a new kind of credential to prove it.

MITx will offer a portfolio of MIT courses through an online interactive learning platform that will:

•organize and present course material to enable students to learn at their own pace

•feature interactivity, online laboratories and student-to-student communication

•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

•operate on an open-source, scalable software infrastructure in order to make it continuously improving and readily available to other educational institutions

With Student Loan Debt as the next "bubble", perhaps this idea isn't as wacky as it seems.
posted by Ruthless Bunny (50 comments total) 96 users marked this as a favorite

 
I've long railed against the idea that university attendance, at great personal expense, is the only way to acquire a first rate education.

MIT apparently agrees with me. Next stop, the MITx site to see what the course catalogue looks like.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:12 PM on December 29, 2011


Nice.

How much bandwidth and what kind of internet access speeds would all the interactivity require? I can see this being attractive in some of the parts of the world I tend to wander about in.
posted by infini at 12:12 PM on December 29, 2011


The irony of systems like these is that MIT is betting that their value as an institution is personal attendance. If their core value really was the lecture content, assignments, lab work, or whatever else they add to MITx it would be a genuine threat to their core value proposition. Instead, it just reminds everyone that education has never been the contents of lectures - it's about your context, your peers, and about the social value of the ultimate credential.

I'm not saying MIT isn't genuine in its goals to open up its educational process here. I doubt a significant fraction of MIT's budget actually comes from tuition at this point, and if the market value of an MIT education faded at all it wouldn't be a huge catastrophe. But I think they can safely assume it won't because no matter what's available for free online, co-present education is still going to be valued way more highly. Whether or not that's fair is another matter, I guess.
posted by heresiarch at 12:17 PM on December 29, 2011 [15 favorites]


"I've long railed against the idea that university attendance, at great personal expense, is the only way to acquire a first rate education.

MIT apparently agrees with me."

Yeah, sorta.

You can get education, but you can't get a degree. And the "credentials" they'll offer won't be issued by MIT.
posted by sutt at 12:18 PM on December 29, 2011


(Errr...MIT announced *ten days ago*)
posted by maryr at 12:19 PM on December 29, 2011


The thing they don't seem to emphasize here is whether they're willing to offer "online learners" quality feedback on their coursework, which, IMO, is the most essential (and often overlooked) component of a good education.
posted by Dr. Eigenvariable at 12:19 PM on December 29, 2011 [4 favorites]



You can get education, but you can't get a degree. And the "credentials" they'll offer won't be issued by MIT.

What's more important, the paper or the knowledge? I'd rather have a credential from whatever MIT is going to call themselves, that doesn't cost me anything, than a "Degree" from University of Phoenix that will run me around $40K.

One thing I have an interest in is adding CPA to the alphabet soup after my name. I can take the requisite courses on-line, for free, that I need to qualify to sit for the exam.

I don't say it's perfect, nothing is. But it's a viable solution for the folks out there who don't want to become indebted for a sheepskin.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:23 PM on December 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


One thing I have an interest in is adding CPA to the alphabet soup after my name. I can take the requisite courses on-line, for free, that I need to qualify to sit for the exam.


Where?
posted by Avenger at 12:30 PM on December 29, 2011


I might actually learn something from a service like this.
posted by chavenet at 12:30 PM on December 29, 2011


Um, the learning is free, the document from what ever Non-profit MIT creates to issue credentials will have a cost. From the FAQ

"In MITx, what will be free and what will cost money?
All of the teaching on the platform will be free of charge. Those who have the ability and motivation to demonstrate mastery of content can receive a credential for a modest fee

What will it cost to get a credential for a given course?
MIT is in the process of determining a fee structure for individual courses and groups of courses. The aim is to make credentialing highly affordable"
posted by Meeks Ormand at 12:33 PM on December 29, 2011


As hieresiarch notes above, unless and until MIT starts awarding bachelor's degrees for a "modest fee" on completion of an online program of study, this won't be especially disruptive. Initiatives like this will always be a lot of sound and fury and not a ton of substance while there's a major conflict of interest with the originating university's major value proposition, which is having paying bodies in chairs in lecture halls for a defined period of years.

The Khan Academy is a project with much greater potential impact, I think. Salman Khan of the Khan Academy just did a fascinating IAMA post on Reddit.
posted by killdevil at 12:52 PM on December 29, 2011 [9 favorites]


For all that I see the Khan Academy referenced (almost as much as the LifeStraw or the ever popular Hippo Roller), if I were struggling to find more information about flywheels or inventing my own methods for developing an inverter, I'd sit through an MIT course.
posted by infini at 12:56 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


The irony of systems like these is that MIT is betting that their value as an institution is personal attendance. If their core value really was the lecture content, assignments, lab work, or whatever else they add to MITx it would be a genuine threat to their core value proposition. Instead, it just reminds everyone that education has never been the contents of lectures - it's about your context, your peers, and about the social value of the ultimate credential.

Indeed, undergraduate education is seemingly more and more of an afterthought at large research universities. That's not to say that you can't get a great education at schools like MIT, but as schools continue to move toward large lecture classes to cut costs and faculty are recruited and promoted on the basis of their research, publications, and ability to bring in outside funding (including corporate R&D), the difference between personal attendance and online learning is narrowing.

If MIT or other schools really wanted to bet their value on the residential model, they would be investing in their in-person educational offerings and increasing the proportion of their faculty committed to teaching as a major portion of their jobs.
posted by zachlipton at 12:59 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm involved in a bunch of initiatives to improve math education in Kenya, and am generally stoked about MIT's involvement in online content. There are obviously some huge questions to be worked out, but the real essence of the problem is making learning resources available to people in locations where resources are scarce. The knowledge base in many countries (like Kenya) has been isolated and ignored since the sixties in many cases; building bridges and counteracting that isolation will lead to massive improvements in living conditions.

Here's a video of an interview(40mb, ~5min) with a Kenyan educator (Mary Achieng) about the impact of open resources on students. (I shot a pile of interview footage in August; this is a part of it. It's still unedited at this point.)

In Kenya, there's a massive undersupply of mathematically competent people. This occurs for a number of reasons, but the end result is that anyone who can pick up some skills and demonstrate them will be hired in seconds. And unfortunately, the universities often aren't providing the necessary skills. Ultimately, if you show up at NGO X or Ministry Y and can demonstrate some technical competence, you're hired. The credential system is broken, so getting an MITx certificate certainly won't be any worse than getting a university degree. And if you write some programs along the way or otherwise build something like a portfolio for yourself, you can get hired.

Currently, developing countries are spending piles and piles of money to hire economists and other foreign experts to come through for a short amount of time and identify problems and spell out solutions. These experts generally have little or no knowledge of local conditions; it's well known that the best solutions come from local people. If we can equip local people with modern problem solving techniques and mathy know-how, they'll be able to cook up solutions appropriate to their context and cut the need for external experts.

Ultimately, it's easy to be cynical about initiatives like this, but they're really giving it a good try with whatever resources can be scrambled together, and these initiatives are having a real impact.
posted by kaibutsu at 1:10 PM on December 29, 2011 [20 favorites]


From the MIT site:

Beyond the MIT campus, MITx will endeavor to break down barriers to education in two ways. First, it will offer the online teaching of MIT courses to people around the world and the opportunity for able learners to gain certification of mastery of MIT material.

This is a huge step forward, however the only way they can do this is with automated grading, i.e. multiple choice questions; i.e. no partial credit on highly complex problems and no credit for projects or theses or term papers or laboratory experiment write-ups. So there is no way this can wholly substitute for a quality college degree program.

Still seems like a great way to get affordable education and certification to Large Masses of People.

Also Stanford for one seems to be going for the same target and the race appears to be on! This ought to be way better than that Alabama Louisiana State football game.
posted by bukvich at 1:13 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Even if this doesn't function as a viable alternative to a traditional degree, I still think the project will be incredibly useful - because they're open sourcing the software and giving it away for free to other educational institutions. Could be a very effective replacement for Blackboard (which, unless it's improved in the last few years, I never found particularly easy, either as a student or an instructor).

I'm certainly interested in using it to study MIT material (though I'm at the stage in my life where the knowledge is far more useful and important than the piece of paper - I've already got the latter).
posted by Infinite Jest at 1:13 PM on December 29, 2011


The thing they don't seem to emphasize here is whether they're willing to offer "online learners" quality feedback on their coursework, which, IMO, is the most essential (and often overlooked) component of a good education.

I absolutely agree, but again, this is something large research universities aren't particularly good at now anyway. There are certainly exceptions––I'm thinking of English faculty who spend huge amounts of time reviewing student work and Art+Architecture programs where critiques are a key part of the learning process,––but the norm in many courses, especially in engineering, is a bunch of hastily scrawled marks from a TA. Some large lecture courses are graded solely on the basis of a couple of multiple choice exams. Some classes don't even hand back exams or only permit you to examine them briefly in class (so they can reuse the questions). Heck, some CS classes will grade assignments primarily by computer, boiling down weeks worth of effort into a numerical grade calculated in a few hundred milliseconds.
posted by zachlipton at 1:16 PM on December 29, 2011


(BTW: the open-source alternative to Blackboard is Moodle, which is generally great.)
posted by kaibutsu at 1:20 PM on December 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


Can I still go to the fraternity parties?
posted by JohnnyGunn at 1:22 PM on December 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


If we're working in a system where the name of the credential that you are getting is more important than who gave it or what ability it represents then I don't think MIT can do much to fix anything.
posted by LogicalDash at 1:24 PM on December 29, 2011


For each MIT course, students would find interactive videos and other materials, and could even potentially complete science laboratory assignments from afar.

Umm... how on earth would that work.
posted by naju at 1:34 PM on December 29, 2011


heresiarch: "The irony of systems like these is that MIT is betting that their value as an institution is personal attendance."

No, I'm pretty sure they're betting that their value is research, and that finding ways to relieve their professors of undergraduate education would be beneficial in getting more research done.
posted by pwnguin at 1:35 PM on December 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


> If we're working in a system where the name of the credential that you are getting is more important than who gave it or what ability it represents then I don't think MIT can do much to fix anything.

You might be interested in this postscript to the online Stanford Artificial Intelligence class from this past few weeks:

Job Placement Program for top students in ai-class

hacker news discussion of program
posted by bukvich at 1:35 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


By the way, Sal Kahn, an MIT graduate, will be the 2012 Commencement Speaker at MIT.
posted by honest knave at 2:05 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


"An MITx learner, anywhere they are, for them to earn a credential they have to demonstrate mastery of the subject just like an MIT student does."

Wrong answer, Georgia-Tech-of-the-North. To earn a credential online, make the student demonstrate a level of mastery greater than that expected of an actual MIT student. Give online students all the time they need to achieve that level, but certainly, raise the bar.
posted by Ardiril at 2:24 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


For each MIT course, students would find interactive videos and other materials, and could even potentially complete science laboratory assignments from afar.

Umm... how on earth would that work.

Voila!
posted by Wordwoman at 2:30 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


It would be interesting to see how the student-to-student communication part of this works out. Studying math and physics at an institution of similar rigor, I could never have gotten through without my classmates.

I needed my study group - we spent probably twenty hours a week together, I can only imagine how much harder it would have been without sharing ideas with them. I needed the kids who were smarter than my study group so we could call them up late at night when we were stuck for hints (it helped that they were our friends). I needed the feeling of camaraderie I felt with all of my classmates that we were getting through something difficult together.

It wasn't just about learning the material - the in-jokes, late nights, collective groans at low grades on hard tests - these created a sense of shared identity that helped us stay sane. For me, that part of the college experience - doing the work together was much more valuable than lectures, labs, or grades.
posted by mai at 2:34 PM on December 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


For each MIT course, students would find interactive videos and other materials, and could even potentially complete science laboratory assignments from afar.

Yeah OK, you can do some beginner's chemistry courses with household items. But for some equipment, you just gotta be there.
posted by scalefree at 2:51 PM on December 29, 2011


coming next year, the MITx alumni association.
posted by parmanparman at 3:00 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


bukvich: "This is a huge step forward, however the only way they can do this is with automated grading, i.e. multiple choice questions; i.e. no partial credit on highly complex problems and no credit for projects or theses or term papers or laboratory experiment write-ups. So there is no way this can wholly substitute for a quality college degree program."

What about a Mechanical Turk-like system where students work is graded by other students who have already passed the course, but need to do a certain amount of grading and critiquing in order to get their full credential? And if there weren't naturally enough upper-level students to support the lower level students maybe financial incentives could be added to bring in enough human graders.

This would also have the beneficial effect of allowing the upper level students to deepen their knowledge through teaching and application. Assignments graded like this could even be sent to multiple graders and their results compared through some automated process to make sure the graders are in reasonable agreement and to identify graders who might need more help with their subjects or be otherwise problematic. Students could also potentially be given the option to flag questionable grades for review (maybe with some limits) by some more authoritative grader (maybe an MIT faculty member) if they thought they were graded unfairly or had other questions. The funding to run this system could be built into the fees for the credentials.
posted by Reverend John at 3:36 PM on December 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


FIT has a (non-free) e-learning BCBA program where students who are learning to teach do the majority of the grading. They have a whole hierarchy of oversite, and it's a big money-making machine for the psych department from what I understand.
posted by rebent at 3:53 PM on December 29, 2011


OpenCourseWare was a wonderful idea. This sounds like a terrible idea. OpenCourseWare was about, "Hey, here's some interesting stuff we thought we'd make available to the world." This initiative, by mimicking the structure of a traditional class and using the name "MITx", sends a clear message that these classes are in some way a substitute for a traditional college education. With higher education becoming more and more out of reach for the 99 percent, MITx is just going to be one more argument for the let-them-eat-distance-learning crowd.

The next step to extend the spirit of OCW would have been truly open journals and conference proceedings accessible to anyone with an Internet connection. An institution with MIT's influence could have easily spearheaded such an effort. Instead, we get "highly affordable credentialing" on an "interactive learning platform".

OpenCourseWare is 12 years old. In that time, we've gone from pseudonymous handles and decentralized blogs to mandatory real names and locked-down social networking platforms. I guess every era gets the MIT online learning initiative that it deserves.
posted by Ralston McTodd at 3:56 PM on December 29, 2011 [5 favorites]


I need credits to qualify for the Patent Bar and I hope the US Patent Office will accept these because I've been using MIT OCW to study for night and weekend courses for about two years and gettting a little credit would be nice.

Credentialling aside, I really enjoy the MIT OCW with great materials on the site and easy to access iTunes downloading. The iTunes is clutch because the open uni section provides a several options and for me MIT videos sometimes moved a little fast and only became clear on a second viewing after consulting other sources.
posted by PJLandis at 4:39 PM on December 29, 2011


And scalefree, I'm taking Chem with labs section II next semester. The MIT stuff really helps make the part-time student thing work for me, whereas without the pre-study it would be a lot of work on top of working. For me at least, being always a middling to poor student, and I highly respect those who work and study.
posted by PJLandis at 4:43 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


The next step to extend the spirit of OCW would have been truly open journals and conference proceedings accessible to anyone with an Internet connection. An institution with MIT's influence could have easily spearheaded such an effort. Instead, we get "highly affordable credentialing" on an "interactive learning platform".

What you've described are initiatives on two entirely different levels of the academic system: research and undergraduate learning. Both are due for overhaul, but reforms aren't mutually exclusive. And, really, research-level reforms don't have a whole lot to do with OCW.

Electronic teaching methods are important. In the US (and much of the developed world) there's enough of a glut of people willing to do academic labor that the university model has been able to kind-of keep up with population growth and funding trends. (Though I'm not sure this will be true for much longer.) Unfortunately, in this context, distance learning has been regarded as a quick-buck after-thought and looked down upon by those who have picked up 'real' degrees. But in other parts of the world, there are massive shortages of skilled teachers who can impart knowledge to undergraduates; in these contexts electronic teaching gives some real hope.

Effectively, we're passing out the hammers and nails that build civilization for free to anyone with an internet connection and the time and will to learn. And that describes more and more of the developing world every day.
posted by kaibutsu at 4:59 PM on December 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


I am awaiting the trademark infringement lawsuit from TED vs. MIT over "MITx" copying "TEDx".
posted by beagle at 5:15 PM on December 29, 2011


Ralston McTodd, I think you're being a little pessimistic about what's possible here. I agree that there is often a let-them-eat-distance-ed attitude in higher ed, but this seems to me like a genuine effort to try to make that compelling. No one is going to just sit down and release a perfect distance ed platform on the first try. And most of the schools where distance ed really matters (like the big state schools) don't have the margins or stable funding to really work this stuff out on their own. But in the context of MITx, there might be the money and the commitment to actually think about what a real modern distance ed experience might look like at scale. And that seems laudable to me. Sure, it may ultimately fizzle, but I don't think we should thumb our noses at people who are trying to do something better than what we have so far.
posted by heresiarch at 5:17 PM on December 29, 2011


Am I missing when this is going to be available?
posted by Edward L at 5:44 PM on December 29, 2011


Ralston McTodd, I think you're being a little pessimistic about what's possible here.

If MITx results in learning tools that improve on or supplement the traditional lecture model, I am excited about that. But it seems to me that OCW embodies the open, inquiring spirit of MIT, and so far everything I've heard about MITx sounds like top-down corporate-speak.

It also looks a little bit like part of a greater trend of offering a la carte versions of what used to be public goods. There was a thread here a while ago about a libertarian who proposed an end to "bundling" citizenship rights, as if citizenship were a Comcast package, instead moving toward a system where workers could have certain rights in a country, like employment, but not others, like government services. Online credentialing seems like the educational version of this idea.

And, really, research-level reforms don't have a whole lot to do with OCW.

Undergrad education and research really aren't all that far apart; a lot of courses incorporate the latest research, and being able to read an academic paper is a skill that at least should be taught at the undergrad level. A lot of people using OCW probably have undergrad degrees already and are the same audience that would benefit from open journals.
posted by Ralston McTodd at 6:10 PM on December 29, 2011


this is fascinating,
hopefully this may bear fruit for my future in some way
posted by actionmotionpoet at 7:27 PM on December 29, 2011


a lot of courses incorporate the latest research, and being able to read an academic paper is a skill that at least should be taught at the undergrad level.

Yeah, I may be a bit out of the mainstream on that front, since math research papers are really in no way accessible to undergrads...
posted by kaibutsu at 8:03 PM on December 29, 2011


beware the suicide rate...
posted by dracomarca at 8:07 PM on December 29, 2011


There are now hoards of for-profit degree mills like University of Phoenix that'll sell you a degree. Stanford and MIT are perhaps moving towards creating a second tier autodidactic educational system that clearly devalues those "bought" degrees. "We'll accept that you didn't attend traditional school, but if you were smart you'd hold a stack of non-degree course credits from MIT, not a bullshit degree mill diploma." I approve. :)
posted by jeffburdges at 10:44 PM on December 29, 2011 [5 favorites]


Effectively, we're passing out the hammers and nails that build civilization for free to anyone with an internet connection and the time and will to learn. And that describes more and more of the developing world every day.

Kaibutsu, if you ever find yourself in Nakuru, check out the cyber cafe boom happening there, most often explained by the increase in number of tertiary education institutes, both state run extension campuses as well as private ones. The market is so competitive, the price for a minute of browsing (15 mins minimum) is half a shilling a minute (most of the rest of the country its standard at 1 shilling/min) and there are always hordes of young students hanging outside waiting their turn. Now imagine if you could get an additional certificate in some thing (including math as you say) from MIT.

For context, about 100 shillings is a US dollar though its fluctuating wildly but you can sit and browse at high speeds for an hour for 30 cents. I'd say that's an extremely affordable opportunity to get world class coursework.

And nobody has said that teachers cannot download the materials and use it for their classes, that is possible as well.

Also, what I'd noticed in the FPP link :

MIT will make the MITx open learning software available free of cost, so that others — whether other universities or different educational institutions, such as K-12 school systems — can leverage the same software for their online education offerings.


This, is in a way, far more powerful than simply you a student can take MIT classes. This implies that the potential for a global educational platform to evolve now exists. Accessible education leveraging new communications tech has met with many barriers (laptops falling from helicopters notwithstanding) - initiatives that go beyond the individual student are to be welcomed.
posted by infini at 11:18 PM on December 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


it's about your context, your peers, and about the social value of the ultimate credential.

Had a tiny smile about the idea that any sheepskin is the ultimate credential. (I've got one from a geek farm and promise you it's not.) If you're saying 'it's who you know', then agreed.
posted by Twang at 1:29 AM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ruthless Bunny: "You can get education, but you can't get a degree. And the "credentials" they'll offer won't be issued by MIT.

What's more important, the paper or the knowledge?
"

For many (most?) large organizations, it's that piece of paper.

I took right at 35 hours of mainframe computer programming course at Houston Community College, which shared (still does share, last I heard) many of the same instructors with UH). I'd also taken a smattering of other courses, some of the basics, but mostly I had puter courses, maybe 45 hours total. I was on a mainframe in those IT classes, it wasn't on the job training but it was using the exact same terminals and languages and blah blah blah; it was good experience, good training.

Employers didn't even want to look at me. I learned real fast to NOT let Human Resources into the picture at all; their job is to throw away resumes that don't check all their little boxes just so, regardless the experience a person has or what they demonstrate. They wanted that four year piece of paper, even if the person had only taken one three hour CoBOL class. Only through my persistence—which can be fun—only through my persistence was I able to find a job programming on the mainframe there in Houston.

That turned once I got a few years of experience behind me, esp with some of it being database calls, even though it was IMS (hierarchical, not relational database.) Once I'd got those first two jobs behind me, doors opened fairly easily.

So anyways, the paper is very, very important. It's like people buying dogs with pedigrees, often as not those dogs are inbred and brain-dead and splay-legged but hey, they've got that nifty piece of paper, so people jump up and down over them.
posted by dancestoblue at 2:42 AM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Why, anybody can have a brain. That's a very mediocre commodity. Every pusillanimous creature that crawls on the Earth or slinks through slimy seas has a brain. Back where I come from, we have universities, seats of great learning, where men go to become great thinkers. And when they come out, they think deep thoughts and with no more brains than you have! But they have one thing you haven't got - a diploma. Therefore, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Universitatus Committeatum E Pluribus Unum, I hereby confer upon you the honorary degree of Th. D...that's Doctor of Thinkology." - The Wizard of Oz.

Not much has changed in the past century or so; most of the students will still be there for the piece of paper or its electronic equivalent. (Except, you know, they're not there to become great thinkers, for the most part.) And I went to MIT; most of what I learned there, I didn't learn in the classroom. How can that be replicated?
posted by madcaptenor at 8:19 AM on December 30, 2011


How can that be replicated?

I think we're all having two concurrent yet distinctly different conversations here yet in a way they are about the same thing, its the perspective from which we're looking at this that differs.

Like kaibutsu for example whose experiences and frame of reference allow for a very clear appraisal of the immense benefits of this freely available, accessible and affordable opportunity for world class reputable information from a globally reknowned brand for potential students who otherwise may never get close to Cambridge much less MIT.

And yourself, madcaptenor, as a student who gloried in the campus, the people and all the knowledge adn learning that comes from the institution itself, in person, face to face, who sees this as a shallow facsimile, that too with some certificate and not the actual piece of paper.

For those who aspire (within reach) of such educational facilities, this may indeed be a sad online attempt, but for the rest of the world, particularly, as has been mentioned upthread by a few more than myself, in the developing world where education itself is seen as the holy grail of upward mobility out of grinding poverty, this is truly a major step forward.

I can go on and on about meeting inventors and makers who'd say that they'd dropped out of school after 10th grade due to lack of family funds for education and who spend their nights tinkering with home made invertors, screen printing PCBs, or re-inventing windmills and who are crying out for information, for knowledge - even a thread like this one where one could ask a question and get it answered with the knowledge of the reputation and thus the credibility of the answer assured unlike random searches online.

Let us not debate each other on the value of this, instead let us recognize the perspective from which we, each, ourselves are evaluating this.
posted by infini at 9:24 AM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Not everything can be scaled, and not everything can be automated. But there's plenty of value in doing it for those things which can be.

At this point this in an exciting experiment which may or may not work out, and may or may not turn out to have profound consequences.

I'm hopeful it will have an important impact, but it may take several iterations of experimenting and developing an ecosystem around it for it to reach its potential.

An ecosystem that works might look something like a self-organized version of the UK's Open University. i.e. Groups of students who hook-up online or in the real-world to support each other, with the occasional backup of volunteer tutors to mentor them.

The difference with the OU is that they have a set of programs designed to take people from close to zero knowledge all the way through to undergrad and postgrad. I would guess that MIT's materials are designed for the folks who make it into MIT, and assume starting out from a fairly strong base.

For that reason, I could see the immediate benefits being biggest for people that have already been able to access good education.
posted by philipy at 11:17 AM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


And yourself, madcaptenor, as a student who gloried in the campus, the people and all the knowledge adn learning that comes from the institution itself, in person, face to face, who sees this as a shallow facsimile, that too with some certificate and not the actual piece of paper.

Perhaps. But at the same time I did not mean "How can that be replicated?" as a rhetorical question, a fancy way of saying "That can't be replicated." Maybe it can, and I wish them success. And if the replication is imperfect, and we can give people, say, half of the MIT experience at one-tenth of the price, that's certainly something worth doing.
posted by madcaptenor at 1:28 PM on December 30, 2011


« Older "In short, the world without the Soviet Union has ...  |  "I'll tell you why movie reven... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments