Elite Colleges Transform Online Higher Education


EdX officials say 154,000 students from more than 160 countries registered for MIT’s first online course, “Circuits and Electronics,” this past spring. Only about 7,100 students passed the course, but that’s still a lot more than can fit in a lecture hall.

More than 120 universities have expressed interest in joining the consortium, said edX President Anant Agarwal, who heads MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.

“Our goal is to reinvent education,” said Agarwal, who created the first MITx course. “It will dramatically improve the quality, efficiency and scale of learning worldwide and on our campuses.”

So far, the new online courses are attracting mostly older workers who want to upgrade their skills and knowledge, but may not have the time or money to attend classes on campus.

The new generation of online courses features interactive technology, open admissions, high-caliber curriculum and the ability to teach tens of thousands of students at once. The universities say the online courses are as rigorous as their campus counterparts.

Some schools, including the University of Washington and University of Helsinki, say they will offer college credit for Coursera courses.

If more schools follow suit, the online teaching could allow more students to attend college and graduate faster, experts say.

Besides potential cost savings, the new generation of online classes can change how students learn on campus by relieving professors of lecturing duties and freeing up more time for research and discussion with students.

“It’s going to transform the work of professors,” said William Tierney, a higher education expert at the University of Southern California.

But many questions remain. Are the courses rigorous enough to justify college credit? How do schools prevent cheating? Can colleges keep charging students thousands of dollars for courses they can take free online?

Some educators say these cyber courses can’t replace the academic community and learning experience of a traditional campus education.

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Posted by on Sep 1st, 2012 and filed under Literature & Electronic. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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