MITx launches — new model for post-secondary learning?

December 22, 2011

We get press releases in the e-mail:

MIT launches online learning initiative

MIT launches online learning initiative

MITx‘ will offer courses online and make online learning tools freely available.

December 19, 2011

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MIT today announced the launch of an online learning initiative internally called “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.

MIT expects that this learning platform will enhance the educational experience of its on-campus students, offering them online tools that supplement and enrich their classroom and laboratory experiences. MIT also expects that MITx will eventually host a virtual community of millions of learners around the world.

MIT will couple online learning with research on learning

MIT’s online learning initiative is led by MIT Provost L. Rafael Reif, and its development will be coupled with an MIT-wide research initiative on online teaching and learning under his leadership.

“Students worldwide are increasingly supplementing their classroom education with a variety of online tools,” Reif said. “Many members of the MIT faculty have been experimenting with integrating online tools into the campus education. We will facilitate those efforts, many of which will lead to novel learning technologies that offer the best possible online educational experience to non-residential learners. Both parts of this new initiative are extremely important to the future of high-quality, affordable, accessible education.”

Offering interactive MIT courses online to learners around the world builds upon MIT’s OpenCourseWare, a free online publication of nearly all of MIT’s undergraduate and graduate course materials. Now in its 10th year, OpenCourseWare includes nearly 2,100 MIT courses and has been used by more than 100 million people.

MIT President Susan Hockfield said, “MIT has long believed that anyone in the world with the motivation and ability to engage MIT coursework should have the opportunity to attain the best MIT-based educational experience that Internet technology enables. OpenCourseWare’s great success signals high demand for MIT’s course content and propels us to advance beyond making content available. MIT now aspires to develop new approaches to online teaching.”

OCW will continue to share course materials from across the MIT curriculum, free of charge.

MITx online learning tools to be freely available

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.

“Creating an open learning infrastructure will enable other communities of developers to contribute to it, thereby making it self-sustaining,” said Anant Agarwal, an MIT professor of electrical engineering and computer science and director of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL). “An open infrastructure will facilitate research on learning technologies and also enable learning content to be easily portable to other educational platforms that will develop. In this way the infrastructure will improve continuously as it is used and adapted.” Agarwal is leading the development of the open platform.

President Hockfield called this “a transformative initiative for MIT and for online learning worldwide. On our residential campus, the heart of MIT, students and faculty are already integrating on-campus and online learning, but the MITx initiative will greatly accelerate that effort. It will also bring new energy to our longstanding effort to educate millions of able learners across the United States and around the world. And in offering an open-source technological platform to other educational institutions everywhere, we hope that teachers and students the world over will together create learning opportunities that break barriers to education everywhere.”

Read frequently asked questions about MITx

Tip of the old scrub brush to James Darrell.


Texas Tribune and Texas State Board of Education

January 5, 2010

Have you found Texas Tribune yet?  It’s a new, on-line newspaper, and generally it’s terrific.

See their collection of stories already about the State Board of Education. The collection can substitute for at least one cup of coffee to get your blood flowing in the morning.


Imaging the French Revolution

March 4, 2009

How can you tell I’m behind the scope and sequence?

I was just reminded today of how neat this site is:  Imaging the French Revolution. Good stuff comes out of George Mason University from time to time.  This site is part of that stuff.

Place Vendome, in the French Revolution (George Mason U image)

11. Le plus Grand, des Despotes, Renversé par la Liberté (Place Vendôme). [Place Vendôme, The Greatest of Despots Overthrown by Freedom] Source: Museum of the French Revolution 88.170 Medium: Etching and colored wash Dimensions: 17.2 x 24.4 cm Commentary (numbers refer to pages in essays): General analysis – Day-Hickman, 5 Reasonable crowd – Day-Hickman, 2

Oh, also:  Take a look at this site:  Some guy named Frank Smitha has assembled a history of the world, claiming to be trying to avoid bias.  The French Revolution page is a pretty good run down, much more thorough than the average textbook.

Beheading of Louis XVI, via Frank Smitha

The beheading of King Louis XVI, an execution opposed by Thomas Paine, who favored Louis’ exile to the United States – Image from Frank E. Smitha’s Macrohistory and World Report, The French Revolution


Finding our place in the world

October 2, 2008

The exhibit is gone, but the memory, and the on-line educational features still remain.

Spectacular digital map of Africa, showing current development.  Map copyright by Allan Sluis, courtesy of NAVTEQ and ESRI

Spectacular digital map of Africa, showing current development. Map copyright by Allan Sluis, courtesy of NAVTEQ and ESRI

Geography teachers should explore the on-line version of the Field Museum’s exhibit, “Maps:  Finding Our Place in the World.

This exhibit is by itself an argument for live internet links for students.  Take a few minutes to peruse some fo the interactive features, like the world map that leads to photos of the major exhibit pieces.

We need more material like this, freely available in classrooms.

Also, see especially:


“Network of the Lincoln Bicentennial”

June 10, 2008

You’ve got to love C-SPAN. Commercial television networks spend billions purchasing rights to be the sole broadcaster of sporting events, the Superbowl, the World Series, the NBA championships, the NCAA basketball championships, the Olympics.

What’s a money poor, creativity- and content-rich public affairs cable channel to do? Well, gee, there’s the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln’s birth coming up in February 2009 . . .:

Meet C-SPAN, “the network of the Lincoln Bicentennial.”

Note the site, set your video recorders (digital or not — just capture the stuff). C-SPAN plans monthly broadcasts on Lincoln and the times, plus special broadcasts on certain events — November 19, the 145th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address, for example.

Of particular value to students and teachers, C-SPAN offers a long menu of links to sites about Lincoln, and to original speeches and documents (DBQ material anyone?).


War with Mexico

House Divided

Lincoln-Douglas Debates

·1st Debate: Transcript | Video

·2nd Debate: Transcript | Video

·3rd Debate: Transcript | Video

·4th Debate: Transcript | Video

·5th Debate: Transcript | Video

·6th Debate: Transcript | Video

·7th Debate: Transcript | Video

Cooper Union Speech

Farewell Address

First Inaugural

Second Inaugural

Gettysburg Address

Last Address

Good on ’em. C-SPAN leads the way again.

Teachers, bookmark that site. Are you out for the summer? U.S. history teachers have a couple of months to mine those resources, watch the broadcasts, and watch and capture the archived videos, to prepare for bell-ringers, warm-ups, and lesson plans.

What will your classes do for the Lincoln Bicentennial? Will that collide with your plans for the Darwin bicentennial?


Debunking the Nigerian scam, with grace and compassion

March 30, 2008

This person should be a diplomat; when I am a fool, I hope someone will puncture my balloon with as much wit, grace and caring.

Oh, yeah — it’s another story about librarians, wouldn’t you know?


Return to normalcy

March 14, 2008

For at least one hour this past week, the Bathtub got more than 11,000 hits. Who could have foreseen that a post about an ancient piece of pseudo-animation would catch the fancy of so many? I gather that the word “animation” played a key role in the enormous popularity of the post.

In two days the Bathtub got more than 100,000 hits; that’s big blog territory, about where WordPress phones and suggests it’s time to move to a paid format. The first day was chiefly driven by Reddit; the second day by Digg. At this point traffic is coming from about five different flagging services.

I wish other, more serious posts would merit such attention. In the real world, People magazine sells a lot more than Time, and a lot more than Natural History, and those magazines throw away an equivalent of the entire press run of The Journal of the Air Pollution Control Association just because of a crease in one page. Content quality bears no correlation to total circulation. But that’s my judgment; who can say that my judgment is better than the crowd’s? Santayana’s Ghost is a more amicable companion, but Galton’s Ghost haunts us, too.

So, some observations:

1. Archaeologists and anthropologists need to flack their finds better. The animated .gif was created in 2004 as best I can determine. I picked up the story from a tiny note in a monthly archaeology newsletter Kris Hirst’s blog at from Ask.com, which picked the story up from a note on a piece of controversy about the bowl (regarding whether it was the Assyrian Tree of Life depicted or not). The bowl was found, depending on the source, in the 1970s or 1980s (surely someone knows which date would be correct).

In other words, this “news” has been kicking around for a quarter to a third of a century. What other magnificent archaeological finds would people find fascinating, if they only knew about them?

This is a constant problem. News gatekeepers — editors — generally do a good job, but the volume of news means many things people would find intriguing, get overlooked. Some day I’ll write up my experiences as a press secretary, telling how editors would repeatedly reject tips as “not news,” then run the items months later when the item came in through a different source, or a different route. (“She came in through the bathroom window,” the Beatles sang, and every press secretary understands why; the door and the grand staircase were occupied.)

The problem is compounded by the internet and computers. Most people who looked at the post did not start out the day wondering what had happened recently in archaeological digs in Iran. News reader filters for our “interests” may shut out things we really would be interested to see. I called it “animation,” and 100,000 people crowded to see. There’s nothing like an old fashioned newspaper to pique our interest in odd items we were not looking for at all, on pages where we read other stuff we were looking for.

2. We all need to marry the cyber world to the real world. I still know precious little about the artifact in question. Where can I find information on it? I don’t have access to archaeology journals. Without knowing exactly where to look on the internet, we are all at a loss as to where to turn. What museum is this piece in, if any? (If it’s not in a museum, Iran or its owners could auction it off at a pretty good price right now, I’ll bet.) Who were the Italians who found it? Where can we find the papers describing it? What about the 11-minute film mentioned in the press releases — where is that film, how can we see it? Those people who hold this information appear not to be plumbed into the tubes of the internets, or the spigots are turned off. There is an information vacuum here, and good, real information is difficult to find to fill it.

3. Most of us know precious little about the world; the internet is often limited in the help it can offer to cure our ignorance. Several commenters seemed to have some knowledge about Iran’s archaeological heritage. Most of us had never heard of the Burnt City, most of us still couldn’t find it on a map, and most of us don’t know where to go to get the next chunk of fascinating information. The internet is a great institution, but in these matters, it’s still hit or miss for people who really want to know. We’re missing the boat on using computers and the internet as education tools.

Readers: What else have we learned from this experience?


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