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M.I.T. to offer degrees for free online courses

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
December 23rd, 2011
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

One of the nation's leading providers of higher education, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, or M.I.T. is set to announce a series of free online courses, allowing students the opportunity to earn official certificates free of charge.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - "There are many people who would love to augment their education by having access to M.I.T. content, people who are very capable to earn a certificate from M.I.T.," provost L. Rafael Reif said  in a conference call.

M.I.T. led the way to an era of online learning 10 years ago when it posted course materials from almost all its classes. The free-of-charge OpenCourseWare now includes nearly 2,100 courses and has been used by more than 100 million people.

The new, announced "M.I.T.x" interactive online learning platform however will go even further. The program will give students access to online laboratories, self-assessments and student-to-student discussions.

Reif along with Anant Agarwal, director of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab, said M.I.T.x would start this spring with limited courses that will expand to include many more.

"The technologies available are much more advanced than when we started OpenCourseWare," Agarwal said. "We can provide pedagogical tools to self-assess, self-pace or create an online learning community."

The M.I.T.x classes will have interactive online discussions and forums where students can ask questions and have them answered from others in the class.

While access to the software will be free, there will most likely be an "affordable" charge, not yet determined, for a credential.

"I think for someone to feel they're earning something, they ought to pay something, but the point is to make it extremely affordable," Reif said. "The most important thing is that it'll be a certificate that will clearly state that a body sanctioned by M.I.T. says you have gained mastery."

The certificate will not be a regular M.I.T. degree, but rather a credential bearing the name of a new not-for-profit body to be created within M.I.T.

Educators at other universities applauded the M.I.T. move.

"It seems like a very big deal because the traditional higher education reaction to online programs was, yeah, but it's not a credential," Richard DeMillo, director of the Center for 21st Century Universities at the Georgia Institute of Technology says. "So I think M.I.T. offering a credential will make quite a splash. If I was still in industry and someone came in with an M.I.T.x credential, I'd take it."
 

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