MITx: The Next Chapter for University Credentialing?
Dec 20, 2011
Commentary by Stephen Downes
An official blog and media frenzy has followed MIT's announcement that it will grant certificates for work completed using its open access learning materials. Most - like Open Culture, along with Audrey Watters in Inside Higher Ed, suggest MIT's move is in response to Stanford's Open Courses. Others, like Mashable, Edudemic and GigaOm, popint to MIT's Open CourseWare as a precursor. Mark Smithers suggests it's possibly a game-changer. Time to remove the blinders, says David Jakes. But as Tony Bates argues, there's something Johnny-come-lately about the whole thing. "I fear that some of these elite institutions in the USA are making it up as they go and are failing to base their strategies on the substantial body of knowledge, research and experience that already exists about online learning and distance education. They are coming to the party late, making a mess, and bragging about it. Hubris is the word that comes to mind. Welcome to the 20th century, MIT – now how about the 21st?" Agreed.

Following up meanwhile from Stanford's AI MOOC, we have this really interesting commentary from Rob Rambusch: "The whole drawn-on-a-napkin feel of the class was responsible for much of its charm. The napkin was visible to 160,000 people but that didn't detract from the personal nature of the learning experience." Seb Schmoller also weighs in with his final report from the course, comparing it with a pre-web course from 20 years ago: "the underlying sense of connection between students and teachers felt similar; and the way in which education would be changed irrevocably by the Internet was already apparent." Maybe we are now really learning how to set up a free school.

Meanwhile, in another thread of the same story, open content is gaining steam, according to this report in the Chronicle. Washington State announced its open course library in October, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst has been awarding faculty grants for the creation of open content, and a bill has been proposed in California to produce 50 open online textbooks.
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