Monday, December 19, 2011

MIT's online classes will be different than Stanford's

MIT will follow Stanford's lead in offering online classes starting in the spring of 2012. They have not yet decided which classes they will pilot, but the courses will be free and open to all.

Stanford University is already offering three free computer science courses online this term. Stanford's classes are synchronized with on-campus sections and use short presentations punctuated by frequent questioning.

Stanford seems to be sticking closer to the traditional classroom structure and pace than MIT. MIT's press release promises self-paced instruction, interactive, online laboratories, and student-to-student communication. They are building an open source platform for their courses, which other schools will be able to use for their own online offerings.

Neither university will give online students credit, but both will offer certification for the successful completion of a class. MIT students will have the option of paying a small fee for assessment and certification, done by an independent organization in order to avoid confusion with MIT itself. Stanford students can do the same assignments and take the same quizzes and exams as regularly enrolled students, and can get a certificate showing how well they did relative to the rest of the students.

Both schools will study and evaluate their online classes, and Stanford, MIT and the rest of us will learn a lot about procedures and delivery platforms for online education.

(The New York Times covered the MIT announcement).