MIT Jumps Into Move Toward Free Online Classes

Distance LearningIn March, an amazing 120,000 people signed up for MIT’s free online course, 6.002x: Circuits and Electronics. The same one that MIT undergrads take, it was a component of MIT’s open education program, MITx. It was also part of a growing trend where universities are offering hardcore computer science and technology classes — online and often for free.

Online education options are expanding quickly. More than 6.1 million students took at least one online course in 2010, an increase of 560,000 students from 2009.

And now, Computerworld notes, some of the pioneers of online CS courses are turning their talents into businesses. For example, Udacity, an online school with 140,000 people enrolled in its latest round of classes, was co-founded by Sebastian Thrun, former director of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. He was one of the professors who taught Stanford’s free online course on AI last fall. Some 58,000 people signed up for it.

Udacity plans to offer a CS curriculum online sometime this year featuring course work similar to what’s needed to earn a university degree, but without the humanities and other electives. Udacity classes are free, but the company may consider charging money for certificates, an idea that MIT is also thinking about.

Another education startup, Coursera, was founded by another group of Stanford CS professors and is being used by several universities including Michigan, Stanford, Berkeley and Princeton. The company says it plans to launch 30 courses by this summer.

Comments

  1. BY Dara says:

    No surprise in that online universities/ career institutions are succeeding in this crappy economy; until the zillions of baby-boomers finally can retire, my generation is stuck in unemployment lines, often with college degrees (not to mention the debts that go hand-in-hand. Personally, I attended a fairly prestigious private university (The University of Miami – Fl, not Ohio). Even after a $120,000 education there… Luckily much covered by scholarships, grants, and a brilliant father who invested in the (now-defunct) Florida Prepaid College literally since my infancy in 1984, so I’m ridiculously lucky (and grateful) I was able to avoid student loans entirely and enroll immediately in graduate school.

    My luck ended around there. Even with dual Bachelors of Science degrees – the first in Print Communication-Journalism with a minor in Marketing (focused specifically on the new-at-the-time (2002) Online variety) and a second minor in intellectual property law. The second, and now fairly useless, B.S was in Political Science. I was particularly interested (and dual minored again with my dual degree) in Public Policy and Constitutional Law.

    The notion that The Supreme Court is about a zillion or so years behind in their notions and understanding of the Internet itself YET SIMULTANEOUSLY proves again and again that their comfort zone of writing decisions archaically based on precedent alone led me to those degree decisions.

    A year after my four-year stint obtaining those degrees, I was conferred with my Masters of Public Administration in 2007.

    My point to this rambling drivel?

    I have been miserably unemployed since 2010.

    Most “Internet Marketing” jobs are snatched up by international, ESOL “writers” who use automated programs to unethically — but very cheaply recycle (or “spin”) copy they’ll write for $5 per each 500 words.

    I simply cannot compete.

    So, the online world of education, such as some referenced in the above article, has been my one piece of hope that I can online-learn some skill (perhaps development of content management systems or the mastery of difficult/ expensive graphics programs (ex. Adobe Dreamweaver) to give me the edge and maybe more than

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