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MITx: a game changer!

The Open CourseWare movement began in 2002 when MIT began offering its courses for free online. Since then, the Open CourseWare offerings have increased significantly, and the effects of that growth have spawned calls for credentialing of learning achieved via OCW.  This year has seen some pretty spectacular progress towards this with the founding of OERU, Badges for Learning, and the offerings of Stanford, to name a few.  But, the year is not over and so it seems fitting that in these final weeks of 2011 MIT would announce MITx.  There are two parts to this announcement: a new learning platform, and the credentialing of learning through MITx.

MITx will offer a portfolio of MIT courses through an online interactive learning platform that will:

  • organize and present course material to enable students to learn at their own pace
  • feature interactivity, online laboratories and student-to-student communication
  • allow for the individual assessment of any student’s work and allow students who demonstrate their mastery of subjects to earn a certificate of completion awarded by MITx
  • operate on an open-source, scalable software infrastructure in order to make it continuously improving and readily available to other educational institutions.”

There are two important parts to this announcement, the biggest being that MIT will be offering certificates for those who complete coursework through MITx. At at time when there is fierce competition for students, when many colleges are seeing enrollments declining, and the number of online offerings increasing, this is HUGE!  Why? Because it is quite possible that obtaining a certificate from MITx would be as valuable, or more valuable, than a degree from many other institutions.  And the cost, though it has not yet been announced, is sure to be competitive as well.  As I said in the title: a game changer.

The less noticeable point of the announcement refers to a new platform for learning. Those who’ve followed the world of LMS (Learning Management Systems) will remember that MIT was one of the institutions involved in the development of SAKAI–an Open Source LMS that, while picking up some market share, never was a big competitor for Moodle.  The announcement today talks about a new platform stating:

“MIT will make the MITx open learning software available free of cost, so that others — whether other universities or different educational institutions, such as K-12 school systems — can leverage the same software for their online education offerings.”

The question is, will this go beyond the LMS and even ePortfolios to a new Personal Learning Environment, an idea that has risen to the forefront of many discussions on what learning platforms need to look like? What MITx and its platform will look like and do is yet to be seen, but there is no doubt it will change a great deal in regards to education in the future.

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