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MITx Opens First Course for Enrollment (mit.edu)
196 points by ernestipark on Feb 13, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 33 comments

Big news for me is: MITx certificate.

Last Fall Stanford took the initiative to organize live online classes. I took "Introduction of DB" and got a certificate from the professor. Some students complained that Stanford name was not on the certificate. Stanford apparently did not agree to distribute free certificates to online students. When you have a few CS students paying a high price to receive education, it's hard to give an official document for free. coursera.com was created by Stanford teachers who thought they would be better in a startup mode.

What makes MIT initiative unique is that its certificates will be MIT branded ("MITx"). This is a winning strategy, as more people will turn to those classes. Some may continue by applying to MIT itself. It will also help MIT brand reach. Note those certificates will only be free for this pilot course.

You can argue that having a certificate is something that matters or not vs actually learn something. I think a lot of people around the world will feel very proud to receive an official document that proved they know those skills.

They are offering MITx certificate for free for this pilot course because, I quote from their website "In this prototype version, MITx will not require that you be tested in a testing center or otherwise have your identity certified in order to receive this certificate." As I see it, this certificate will be more or less of equal value as the Stanford online course certificates, since their is no way to ensure authenticity of the student.

Their plan in (near)future is to charge a small fee and conduct tests at authorized testing centres(ETS centres for example) where ones identity can be confirmed. Since that way they can confirm that their is no foul play involved, the student will also be given course credits from MITx(Discussed here: http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2011/mitx-faq-1219.html ). That for me is really exciting.

it really is. I only hope that eventually these credits will be recognized by employers. would they be be willing to hire someone who completes an entire curriculum successfully through MITx over someone who took a similar education at Big State U?

The quality of the graduates will bring the employers. Employers only want a mechanism of sifting the wheat from the chaff. If MITx tests students at the rigor of regular MIT courses, there is no reason why employers won't be tripping over themselves to hire MITx grads.

Furthermore, this will annihilate the monopoly that sub-par institutions currently have on conferring degrees and other certifications. Students who have MIT level ability will no longer have to settle for second best. They can prove themselves at the top institutions without having to worry about the 10% acceptance rate.

If executed properly, this will revolutionize post-secondary education and save students and taxpayers billions of dollars. It has long since been proven that the majority of post-secondary institutions are nothing but glorified testing centers. Why not cut out all the excess, and let MIT do the teaching while a test center does the testing?

Also, this will dismantle the broken R&D incentive structure that is publicly funded academic research via tenured professors. The research scientist will be a dedicated profession unto itself, as will the post-secondary professor. Public funding of scientific research will no longer involve the ridiculous process of journal publication, and will instead focus on delivering results to the taxpayer based upon a research contract (much like privately funded research).

Structural inefficiency in academic research has caused an immeasurable slowdown in scientific progress over the past few decades. With one fell swoop, initiatives such as MITx have the ability to rectify this gross misallocation of resources.

Employers like MIT grads because MIT makes you learn 1) how to learn 2) to get shit done. Soul-crushing courseloads may not be optimal for learning, but most employers care more that you're smart, get things done, and can learn fast on your own.

By allowing people to take things at their own pace, MITx will perhaps be more optimal for learning the material, but will not provide the same intense environment in which "hardk0re" MIT students are forged (for better or worse).

You could perhaps try to imitate this by taking a soul-crushing courseload from MITx and having a support network of others doing the same. It also makes a big difference whether your support network aspires to get certified so they can get a comfortable job, or aspires to (or actually does) build brain sensors or self-driving cars or musical Tesla-coil hats that play the Mortal Kombat theme (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aEgaI6WouQ0).

It's not merely about competence/rigor that leads an employer to hire a specific graduate from a specific school. If that were the case, then Harvard Extension School students would be just as highly sought after as Harvard College students, given that they complete many of the same courses taught the same instructors.

The reality is that employers can choose to be picky within the boundaries of the marketplace. While I do believe MITx is revolutionary in that it is pursuing a global, open-access education available to anyone with a high-quality brand behind it to boot, I do not think it will change much in terms of employers and hiring.

Employers will continue to hire MIT/Stanford/Harvard graduates because they simply want "the best and brightest." I do not see MITx certificates replacing this recruitment pipeline. MITx credentials are probably more appropriately regarded as something of a wildcard -- an extra edge for a job applicant over more people without evidence of continuing education or certifications.

Since MITx is not in the business of conferring full-blown degrees (yet?), the "sub-par" institutions can rest assured that their students are not going anywhere. And even if MITx did offer full degrees, as does Harvard Extension School, there is the whole other issue of how the marketplace values prestige and brand.

As a college student, all these free online classes from MITx, Stanford, etc. are killing me. I really want to take them, but I don't have time for these and my regular school work (and full-time job).

I would try seeing if you can wrap one into an independent study.

At my local university a few grad students are trying this model: Everyone in a small group is taking either nlp-class,ml-class,or pgm-class. We give the others in the group an overview of what we're learning. To make this worthy of grad credits we're also reading and presenting papers during the semester, and each coming up with a project based on the material which should aim to yield publishable results.

It's a little unfortunate that coursera is taking their time right now, but so far it looks to be promising, and hopefully we'll get a few paper out of it in the end.

As a working professional AND a grad student, agreed. The page says you should expect to devote 10 hrs per week to the course. Sounds awesome but I just don't have that kind of time. I think this is a great program they have going though and maybe I'll be able to get in on some of the future classes.

Signed. I wish my university would just start using these courses instead of their own curriculum, as they tend to be highly outdated or even plain wrong.

Couldn't agree more - I really want to spend more time taking such amazing courses FOR FREE rather paying humongous tuition differential and sit in a class where the course material is not challenging/thought provoking enough?

Instead of offering separate certificates for courses, why don't they make this an open platform? Say I might be registered at a community college, and instead of choosing to register for "CSXX - Artificial Intelligence" I register for ai-class.com. ai-class/udacity/mitx validates my creds against my university's database and whatever grades I get in quizs, mid terms and finals are pushed from ai-class/udacity/mitx-s to my school's transcript generation system. If ai-class/udacity/mitx-s give an API - kids who maintain schools website should be able to integrate this within a semester.

How this'll benefit the current status quo:

For the students:

Not everybody can go to Standford, MIT for various reasons - but to have a number of courses in your transcript from such prestigious institutions will open doors for him - not only intellectually but also professionally. When he registers for courses, at the beginning of the semester - the registration software shows him the current offering which is a Plain Old Lecture center class by an inhouse faculty and an online class from Prof. Ng. He decides whichever works for him - or may be register for both and see which one suits him and drops the other one.

I strongly believe in the phrase "You become average of the 5 people you hang out with" - think if your classmates are as smart as people in hackernews. [Gawd - no curves in that case!]

For Professors:

They'll be disrupted. I mean, right now the challenge a professor faces is only when there is another professor in the same department offering the same course that same semester. So they tend to use the same slides from the book, same projects (this makes me mad) for generations really. The content is stale compared to what's out there in the real world. Obviously, students paying tuition would want value for their money and for many, going to a good school is gateway to a great job - only to find what he learned in class has been deprecated by industry standard. Students seeing more value in an online course would ditch the stale professors. Furthermore, many hotshot professors really don't give a shit about teaching - they really want to do research, but the department wants them to teach as there's no substitute for that course. If they adopt ai-class/udacity/mitx-s, burden on research profs can be lightened a bit. But bottom line, Professors have to be innovators to bring the students to his class. And if you really enjoy teaching like Prof. Walter Lewin - the world will be tuning in and you'll get paid too (read next point).

For Universities: Oh you feudal system, you need to innovate to survive. Let me show you why this will make your profits soar: (1) by allowing students the flexibility to choose from you'll invite more clients (er, students) (2) Even if you can't afford superstar faculty like Prof. Thrun or Norvig, you can still pay udacity to use their course and get them in your portfolio. Think of the savings! (3) If you have superstar profs - you can do this too! Just allow other universities to use your courses and charge them for that! Then pay a cut to the professors for doing such a wonderful job.

Yeah, I just graduated and I'm excited to finally have time to teach myself through programs like this. At my university, I would have had to officially change majors just to take this sort of course.

I come from India. We have the world's toughest entrance examinations to get to public funded courses. I got an engineering degree through one of those. However once I got through the admissions, I found the courses outdated. The professors got into colleges after bribing the managers and were sub-par in their teaching, the labs under-funded and there were frequent strikes at school for things like proper lodging. However the tough entrance exams meant that most of the students graduated and became successful self-taught professionals. I think something like Mitx, has the potential to become the single curriculum for the entire planet. Kids would be demanding this instead of the stale university offerings. Some of them pay ridiculous amounts of money for getting into private colleges without any merit scholarship. Check the below link. Mitx could become the university of alderaan for planet earth!!! Think about a million hungry Mitx grads a year getting through grueling MiT level coursework. That could take technology to unforeseen levels.


Does anyone know of any downsides to enrolling? Like others, I'm doing school/work full time already but I'm letting my curiosity get the better of me (enrolled on Udacity only so far). Is it wrong to assume that if you pass, you pass, if not you can just try again when you have the time (and it's being offered of course)?

Edit: add MITx and some coursera courses as well... this semester's been gentle so far, why not liven it up?

I have this question as well. I read through the TOS, Honor Code and what have you but I did not find anything concerning re-enrolment/negative implications when not able to finish the course/drop out half way or be just really bad at it.

I would really like to do it and could most likely also take the time to do so but for me there is a possibility of something more important coming up in the future resulting in me having to cut back on the curse. If something like: "If you want to enter the next course/a different one and your record shows that you began a course which you did not finish, then you have to do X/will be given a lower priority etc." applies, I would reconsider enrolling.

Does anyone have any further information on that?

"features interactive instruction, online laboratories and student-to-student and student-to-professor communication"

Gerald Sussman is one of the professors (coauthor of SICP and father of Scheme). If the first statement is true, this is quite an opportunity.

I don't think that he's quite as inspiring to learn EE from as to learn CS from, though he's certainly an excellent teacher in any case.

I'm kind of sad, however, that they cancelled the graduate-level sequel to SICP that he was going to teach this semester and that I was going to take. I had even paid my tuition of $7696 for the class (MIT ain't cheap!). I'm one of the first victims of MITx! I still think it's a great thing anyway.

He and Agarwal seem like odd choices to teach this lower-level undergrad class. Maybe because it's so high-profile?

I'm not sure I get you. At MIT it is encouraged for the most prestigious professors to teach even freshman level classes. In fact, Sussman and Ableson themselves taught 6.001 (SICP) when I took it as a first semester freshman. I was taught by all sorts of famous people all throughout my undergrad MIT education. The big names especially chose to do so when they were developing a new approach to teaching the material.

Ahh, ok. I'm not sure you get the more average university experience then. I spent 5 years at a fairly large research state university without ever having a class from the department head, despite the fact that his main focus was also AI. I've even had a few lower-level undergrad classes taught by under-qualified first year PhD students.

Ah. I'll never again whine about how much my MIT education cost me! (Even though I never got to take a linguistics class with Chomsky.)

I look forward to the day independent learning is respected, and education quality can be decoupled from expense.

I believe portfolios will become increasingly important in differentiatiing candidates in the future.

As I take these courses, my goal will be to build up a strong enough github profile, and project list to get past any online course discrimination.

I am looking forward to the labs. How are they going to give us remote students the much needed hands on experience? Anant Agarwal is an exceptionally good teacher as can be seen from the 6.002 ocw videos. Lots of energy and enthusiasm! This is wonderful!

I'd assume with a circuit simulator.

The announcement notes "The book can be purchased on Amazon."

Amazon notes "Only 17 left in stock--order soon (more on the way)." Such "free" courses will have a very interesting impact on book sales.

ETA: Now 15.

The announcement also notes: "While recommended, the book is not required: relevant sections will be provided electronically..."

Amazon now states ships in 1 to 3 weeks


24 new from $80.00 / 29 used from $51.49

so it won't be hard to get a copy before coursework starts in March.

Now 7.

I'm interested in CS, IT and Business. I'm also looking to see a rigorous test after the class. I'm ready to pay the equivalent cost of running the courses and taking the exams.

This has a lot of value for someone thrown in a third world country with no financial possibility to join a decent University in the developed world.

I'm so signed up :D

There are so many offerings, even since I last made a little list of them for myself ( http://gergely.imreh.net/blog/2012/01/adventures-into-online... ) that it's incredible.

Let's get down to knowledge...

I'm really excited for this -- I think MITx will continue where Stanford left off. Is this the disruption that will finally open a high-quality, reputable, higher education for the masses? It's going to be awesome to be a part of history with this course. :)

Honestly,i dont care about certification and employers.I just need the right knowledge to help me create my own stuff.

6.002x Circuits and Electronics is the first class and is open for enrollment. The class will begin in March!

Pretty cool. Looking forward to the release of some CS classes

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