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.


Power of good journalism: Cyberstalker jailed, no bail set

December 15, 2010

Good journalism is more priceless than gold.

Federal authorities arrested Vitaly Borker in New York for his threats against customers whom he had defrauded in on-line purchases of eyeglasses and frames.

The arrest came eight days after the New York Times published a lengthy story on Borker’s abusive behavior: Vitaly Borker advertised designer eyeglass frames on line; when a purchaser actually bought a frame, Borker would substitute a cheap knock-off worth much less than the purchaser paid. If and when purchasers complained, rather than cheerfully make a refund Borker would stalk them and make threats online, telling the purchasers he knew where they lived, and sending photos of the building in at least one case.

Authorities failed to act. It’s a shocking story that you should read; the Times reported:

Soon after, she discovered that DecorMyEyes had charged her $487 — or an extra $125. When she and Mr. Russo spoke again, she asked about the overcharge and said she would return the frames.

“What the hell am I supposed to do with these glasses?” she recalls Mr. Russo shouting. “I ordered them from France specifically for you!”

“I’m going to contact my credit card company,” she told him, “and dispute the charge.”

Until that moment, Mr. Russo was merely ornery. Now he erupted.

“Listen, bitch,” he fumed, according to Ms. Rodriguez. “I know your address. I’m one bridge over” — a reference, it turned out, to the company’s office in Brooklyn. Then, she said, he threatened to find her and commit an act of sexual violence too graphic to describe in a newspaper.

Ms. Rodriguez was shaken but undaunted. That day she called Citibank, which administers her MasterCard account, and after submitting some paperwork, she won a provisional victory. Her $487 would be refunded as the bank looked into the charge and discussed it with the owner of DecorMyEyes. A final determination, she was told, would take 60 days.

As that two-month deadline approached, Mr. Russo had dropped his claim for the contact lenses he’d never sent. But, she said, he began an increasingly nasty campaign to persuade her to contact Citibank and withdraw her dispute.

“Call me back or I’m going to drag you to small-claims court,” he wrote in an e-mail on Sept. 27. “You have one hour to call me back or I’m filing online.”

A few hours later, Mr. Russo sent details of what appeared to be a lawsuit filed in Brooklyn. It included a hearing date and time, the address of the court, a docket number and a demand for $1,500, which, the e-mail said, “includes my legal fees.”

On the strength of the Times’ reporting, federal authorities arrested Borker about a week later — the judge refused to allow bail.  Other agencies lined up to press charges once the man was in custody.

“Muckrakers” and investigative reporters long told that sunshine exposing wrongdoing is beneficial to the public, simply by the exposure.

Don’t we need more such reporting?


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