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Get an MIT education for free, with soon-to-launch MITx

   /   Jan 17th, 2012Education, News

Online learning can't replace the classroom experience, but it could replace the burden of student debt.

Most of the people I know have debt from education. And they were reluctant to take it on—but, many of them tell me, they felt that their choices were either to pay big bucks for a solid education, or not to have one at all. Given the competitive nature of our society, it seemed better to accept years of debt than not to go to school.

Some universities, like Stanford and MIT, are showing that there might be another option out there—thanks to the Internet. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) recently announced the spring 2012 pilot of an online learning initiative called MITx, which will offer the online teaching of MIT courses free of charge to anyone who wants to take them. Those who are able to exhibit a mastery of the subjects taught on the platform will receive an official certificate of completion, bearing, rather than MIT’s coveted credential, the MITx name (there will be a small charge in exchange for a certificate acknowledging completion of a course).

For about ten years, MIT has been providing thousands of free online courses to over 100 million students through a free, open-source online platform called OpenCourseWare, and their new courses will build on this platform. Now, they are enhancing their offerings by making them more interactive: student-to-student discussions will facilitate learning and collaboration amongst peers—an important aspect of education—and students will have access to online laboratories and self-assessments so they can track their progress as they work at their own pace. (MIT’s on-campus students are also expected to benefit from MITx courses, which they can use to enhance their in-class learning.)

Stanford, like MIT, has been trying to provide access via the Internet to its world-class educational offerings. Last fall, a free online course on Artificial Intelligence attracted 58,000 participants. If they completed the course, they received a ranking in comparison to enrolled Stanford students, as well as a certificate.

Another option is the website Academic Earth, which brings together free online courses from various top universities like Yale and Stanford, with video instruction (but no coursework or interaction, unlike MITx will), in one place. It was recently acquired by technology company Ampush Media, so site developments are likely in the near future.

Perhaps these online courses won’t be suitable for everyone, particularly those who are interested in the socializing experience of college or graduate school—simultaneously an important source of networking opportunities, and a problematic contribution to the “summer camp” atmosphere that pervades many campuses. But for people who are already working and want more knowledge about their field, or who are confident, self-motivated learners, these online learning platforms could provide access to elite education—at zero percent of the cost.

Thanks to Misha Lepetich for the valuable story tips here.

11 Responses

  1. Boyd Carter says:

    MITx is leading the way again. MIT OpenCourseWare is a web-based publication of virtually all MIT course content, look at their courses first and compare to others offered elsewhere.

    My new website is identifying free online courses from top universities and providing a representative list of courses that they provide. I’ve covered the top six universities so far and am currently working on the seventh, based on the US News rankings of national universities. Please visit and enjoy.

    • Dr. Frank McCluskey says:

      Thanks, I will take a look. The web changes how information is shared and this has the potential to be a game changer.

  2. MITx is the greatest project of HE the wıorld has ever seen .

    This is revolution . Let us all ENDORSE IT .
    Stanford, Yale, Harvard, Princeton should follow .

    • Rosa-Fay Milnar says:

      I am so excited about this opportunity. I am currently working on a doctorate in an online university which will cost me over $150,000 to achieve a hundred dollars additional pay to teach a college course. I have 2 masters 20+ years teaching and 30+ years in successively higher positions in the world of business management consulting. I am so eager to take these courses as I have taken a course on the free MIT online but no certificate, so it does not count for professional development. This is utopia for me. It is also a way for seniors to contribute to society for many more years.

  3. Can’t wait to take some MITx Classes!!!!

  4. Rob Rambusch says:


    “This is revolution . Let us all ENDORSE IT .
    Stanford, Yale, Harvard, Princeton should follow .”

    Stanford is “following” by having 160,000 people register for the aiclass which has already completed. Some 20,000 students finished the advanced track (homework, quizzes and exams). I was among them. Stanford is continuing to “follow” by offering 16 more courses starting in February.

    These are not simply recorded lectures like OCW or many other efforts (including Stanford’s engineering everywhere). I’m looking forward to seeing what MITx *will* have to offer. While OCW was “leadership” in its day, I think MIT is playing catch up here.

  5. Julieta says:

    As Monica and many other people reading this article, i can’t wait to join this opportunity! Recently, Think Big launched The Floating University a very interesting but paid “online school”. thanks for this aricle Rachel!

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