The Idea of a free online education has been around for a while, but despite the availability of instant access to information across the world for years now, we are only just seeing groups starting to take advantage of the potential. So who is going to finally crack the formula for effective engaging online education?
There are plenty of sites that offer tutorials or information about a specific subject. It is even possible to pay a tuition to attend online universities of various reputations. But few actually attempt to offer a free, effective, engaging educational experience that is geared towards the internet. Fortunately there are a few organizations stepping up to take on this issue such as the Khan academy. There are even several prominent universities that are looking into solutions for this as well.
For a while now MIT has been offering OpenCourseWare on the web; A catalog of over 2000 different MIT courses offering lecture notes, assignments, exams, and video's from an entire semester worth of classes. All of these resources are taken directly from the same classes they teach on campus to MIT students seeking their Graduate or Master degrees. Best of all it is entirely free and no registration is required.
Open Course Ware is an incredible resource, but not without its issues. For one you don't have access to the text books (sold separately), and similarly the lecture notes they provide are delivered as power points without any of the dialog that expanded on them. Assignments and exams don't always include answers. Video media are just recordings of the full hour-long class lectures. And you can not get any degree or certification by simply completing the content on your own. Still it is free content from one of the most highly respected schools in its field, and now MIT thinks it can do even better.
The really cool news is that MIT intends to create brand new content based on their open course ware that is produced specifically for the web. Currently called MITx, it was built from the ground up to be a web-based experience available to everyone. Just like their open course ware it will be completely free, while MIT on campus students will see it start to supplement their in class education as well. They even intend to offer high quality certification testing, where for a fee you take a fairly challenging test that will prove your credentials for many high level topics.
The pilot program is supposedly being made available this spring. So with the idea of open source education in mind I wanted to take a minute to think about how producing educating content for the web will be different from an on-campus education.