MIT, Harvard Plan Free Online Classes

Susan Hall

Building on Massachusetts Institute of Technology's free online course initiative called MITx announced in December, MIT and Harvard have teamed up in a $60 million plan called edX to offer college-level courses.

 

The program, to be up and running by fall, will include discussion forums, short videos and laboratory simulations under the guidance of its professors and teaching assistants, according to Boston.com. It's just one more way to get free training, and with college being so expensive and jobs often hard to come by, who can argue with that?

 

It's a burgeoning field, directly competing with the private company Coursera, and with $16 million in venture backing from Stanford, Princeton, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Michigan. Online learning certainly isn't new, as The New York Times points out, with the landscape littered with failed previous attempts. But education is seen as an area ripe for disruption, spawning events such as Startup Weekend EDU a recent event in Boston in which teams of entrepreneurs took a 54-hour crash course in education startup design, Xconomy reports.

 

The Times story quotes Lawrence S. Bacow, a past president of Tufts, member of the Harvard Corp. and co-author of a new report on online learning, as saying:

What's still missing is an online platform that gives faculty the capacity to customize the content of their own highly interactive courses.

Here's a major problem with the whole concept: From my own experience as a student with Codecademy and Babbel, though, I can attest that after spending the day working at a computer, the last thing I want to do is spend more time sitting at the computer. I still haven't found a solution to that.



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