MITx, a new online-learning initiative launched by MIT and announced in December, begins in earnest today with its first course: 6.002x (Circuits and Electronics). More than 90,000 people have signed up for the experimental prototype course since registration opened in February, and today, those students can begin their study.
“This is an exciting day,” said MIT Provost L. Rafael Reif, who has led a concerted MIT effort over the past four years to investigate the educational possibilities afforded by online technologies, and who has led the establishment of MITx. “MITx is designed to allow MIT students and faculty to explore ways to use technology to augment the MIT education: We are eager to see how MITx courses can add even greater value to our traditional, time-tested approach to teaching. MITx will also offer MIT teaching to people beyond our campus, widening access to education and offering new connections between the Institute and learners around the world.”
The creation of 6.002x, and the technological platform on which it rests, has been led by MIT Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) Anant Agarwal, who is also the director of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL). Modeled after MIT’s 6.002 — an introductory course for undergraduate students in EECS — 6.002x will introduce engineering in the context of the lumped circuit abstraction, helping students make the transition from physics to the fields of electrical engineering and computer science. Agarwal has taught 6.002 for more than 10 years.
“The launch of our experimental prototype course is step one in a process we hope will lead to an innovative and effective online learning experience,” Agarwal said. “We have built MITx in such a way that we will be able to release the software to the world as open source and to invite developers everywhere to help us improve the features we’ve created as well as invent new ones. 6.002x will be an energetic exploration of online learning.”
6.002x will be taught by Agarwal along with Chris Terman, CSAIL co-director; EECS Professor Gerald Sussman; and CSAIL Research Scientist Piotr Mitros.
To access the course, registered students will log in at 6002x.mitx.mit.edu, where they will find an introductory video describing how to use the platform, a course schedule, an e-textbook for the course, and a discussion board. Each week, students will watch video lectures and demonstrations, work with practice exercises, complete homework assignments, and participate in an online interactive lab specifically designed to replicate its real-world counterpart. Students will also take exams and be able to check their grades as they progress in the course. Overall, students can expect to spend approximately 10 hours each week on the course.
MITx is a not-for-profit initiative and is designed to offer all of the teaching of a given course for free. Students who wish to obtain an MITx prototype credential by proving mastery of the given material will be able to do so; credentialing will require payment of a modest fee. The MITx fee structure for credentialing has not yet been determined; students who take the 6.002x prototype class will be able to obtain credentialing for free.
“We are delighted that so many people have signed up for our first course,” Reif said. “We are grateful for their interest and certain to learn much from them about what works best in online education.”