The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.) will announce on Monday that they intend to launch an online learning initiative called M.I.T.x,which will offer the online teaching of M.I.T. courses free of charge to anyone in the world.
This sounds like a great thing. I don't believe that people will care about not having gotten a "real" degree as you can still get a credential that you've completed the set of courses. It will take some time to get set up of course, and people will have to check and see how good the courses really are, but there are some base expectations since they will be from MIT with regular MIT material.
M.I.T.x represents the next logical evolution in the mushrooming business of free online education by giving students an interactive experience as opposed to a simple videotaped lecture. Academic Earth (picked by Time Magazine as one of the 50 best websites of 2009) has cornered the market on free online education by making a smorgasbord of online course content – from prestigious universities such as Stanford and Princeton – accessible and free to anyone in the world. Users on Academic Earth can watch lectures from some of the brightest minds our universities have to offer from the comfort of their own computer screen. However, that is all they can do: watch. Khan Academy, another notable online education site, offers a largely free interactive experience to its users through assessments and exercises, but it limits itself to K-12 education. By contrast, M.I.T.x will combine the interactivity of the Khan Academy with the collegiate focus of Academic Earth, while drawing primarily from M.I.T.’s advanced course material.
I had not heard of Academic Earth or Khan Academy, but it sounds like good strides are being made to accommodate alternative learning. I do hope that other universities follow MIT's example. I enjoy watching the lectures on UCSD TV and I don't see a reason why people should have to travel to see these lectures in person.