MITx Could Revolutionize Higher Education
MITx is the next big step in the open-educational-resources movement that MIT helped start in 2001, when it began putting its course lecture notes, videos, and exams online, where anyone in the world could use them at no cost. The project exceeded all expectations—more than 100 million unique visitors have accessed the courses so far.
Meanwhile, the university experimented with using online tools to help improve the learning experience for its own students in Cambridge, Mass. Now MIT has decided to put the two together—free content and sophisticated online pedagogy—and add a third, crucial ingredient: credentials. Beginning this spring, students will be able to take free, online courses offered through the MITx initiative. If they prove they've learned the material, MITx will, for a small fee, give them a credential certifying as much.
In doing this, MIT has cracked one of the fundamental problems retarding the growth of free online higher education as a force for human progress. The Internet is a very different environment than the traditional on-campus classroom. Students and employers are rightly wary of the quality of online courses. And even if the courses are great, they have limited value without some kind of credential to back them up. It's not enough to learn something—you have to be able to prove to other people that you've learned it. The best way to solve that problem is for a world-famous university with an unimpeachable reputation to put its brand and credibility behind open-education resources and credentials to match."
Update: Here's a news release from MIT, with a list of FAQs.